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Effects of climate and anthropogenic disturbance on Scandinavian brown bears

Climate change has been described as one of the most important stressors for individuals and whole ecosystems and there is an increasing demand for a more processed-based understanding of the interplay of the physiological responses and the environmental change animals in the wild experience. The application of biologging devices, such as GPS collars and physiological sensors to collect body temperature and heart rate, facilitate the gathering of the necessary data but require the capture and handling of individuals.

This PhD project aims to identify 1) the direct and indirect effects of anthropogenic disturbances on brown bears in Scandinavia. We will investigate short-term effects of capture, immobilization and surgery on the circadian time-keeping of the bears’ physiology and behavior and evaluate potential long-term effects of repeated captures by investigating the patterns of epigenetic marks and the seasonal dynamic of telomere lengths. This information will aid to improve capture and handling methods to ensure optimal animal welfare. Additionally, we aim to assess 2) impacts of climate change on phenology and physiology of brown bear hibernation. The brown bear in Scandinavia hibernates on average from November to April but in which way environmental change, such as increasing ambient temperatures and decreasing snow cover, will affect the brown bear’s timing of den entry and exit as well as energy consumption during that period is yet to be explored. We will use a mechanistic approach and combine microhabitat data with physiological data and metabolic rate to predict changes in phenology and energetic constraints during hibernation under future climate change scenarios.

 

Publication(s):

Thiel, A., Evans, A. L., Fuchs, B., Arnemo, J. M., Aronsson, M., & Persson, J. (2019). Effects of reproduction and environmental factors on body temperature and activity patterns of wolverines. Frontiers in zoology16(1), 1-12.

Græsli, A. R., Thiel, A., Fuchs, B., Singh, N. J., Stenbacka, F., Ericsson, G., Neumann, W., Armeno, J. M., & Evans, A. L. (2020). Seasonal Hypometabolism in Female Moose. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution8, 107.

 

Funding sources:Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

PhD Student: MSc. Alexandra Thiel
Inland Norway University, Campus Evenstad Norway
Ecophysiology Research Group