University of New Hampshire
Mentor: Dr. Paul Tsang
The Use of Fecal Samples as a Non-Invasive Method for Assessing the Production of Hormones in Captive Mammals
Wildlife continues to face threats of habitat loss and over-hunting, resulting in reproductive isolation. Knowing physiological and biological traits of captive wild animals can help wildlife managers create plans to rehabilitate and reestablish populations. Whenever possible, blood, saliva, and urine samples are traditionally used to assess these traits. However, collecting such samples from large wild or captive animals is often challenging, stressful for the animals, and dangerous to the handlers. In addition, blood sampling can also be costly. Given these challenges, collecting fecal samples is a good, safe, and feasible alternative. In my study at the Squam Lake Science Center in New Hampshire, fecal samples from five mammals (bobcats: one male and two females, and black bears: one male and one female) were taken on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays throughout the months of June and July 2013. The samples were transported on ice weekly to the University of New Hampshire where they were stored at -20°C until analysis in the fall of 2013. For analysis, all samples (one to two gram portions) will be freeze-dried, extracted with organic solvents and quantified by radioimmunoassay for the three major classes of reproductive steroid hormones (estrogens, progestins, androgens). We hope to show that reproductive hormones are present in feces, and more importantly, the patterns of these hormones reflect the reproductive status of these animals.