Dr. Rudy Boonstra, University of Toronto
Being able to respond rapidly and effectively to challenges is key to fitness. The stress axis is central to making this happen. The stress response can vary among animals because of variation in maternal quality, of genetics, and of environment (poor vs good territories) and deteriorate as aging proceeds. Red squirrels are ideal, long-lived mammals to study these changes and to test hypotheses of aging, of life history constraints, etc. This research examines all aspects of the stress axis from the brain mechanisms, endocrinology, and energetics and links it into complementary studies going on simultaneously on behavior, genetics, and food manipulations.
Dr. David Coltman, University of Alberta
My lab developed microsatellites for red squirrels that we use for pedigree analyses. Paternity and kinship analyses make it possible to conduct quantitative genetic analyses, and to study the mating system and spatial genetic structure of the Kluane population. In the future we plan to use comparative genomics to identify the genes that determine adaptive variation in sciurids.