Continued DNA Study

Continued DNA study of coyotes in San Francisco is proceeding forward!

Professor Ben Sacks of UC Davis initiated the DNA study of San Francisco coyotes when he analyzed DNA from the first coyotes that re-appeared in San Francisco in 2002 after decades of absence from the city. It is his study which showed that these early coyote arrivals in San Francisco came from Mendocino County. Ben had previously discovered that markers differentiated various geographical groups of coyotes, and one of those groups he was able to isolate and identify was Mendocino coyotes. San Francisco coyotes matched these.

The study was expanded in 2008 with more samples (which I collected from throughout the city) whereby Ben Sacks’ graduate student, Katherine Marquez, studied the connectivity of our population to surrounding rural populations (2011).

And now we’re into yet another round of tests from scats I collected over the last four years from throughout the city, with many defecations occuring as I watched, so I know “who” they came from as well as their family relationships, among other things. So we already have a lot of information about these coyotes. Ben has generously and graciously taken on the DNA analysis of this project, which he’ll incorporate into his teaching. The earlier scats will be used as benchmarks.

My two main questions include, “To what extent and how are the coyotes in San Francisco related to one another?” This will show movement within the city, and will show to what extent inbreeding has occurred. And, “Are all or most of our present population descended from the original Mendocino group, or have some trickled in from south of the city?” Stay tuned for the results later on this year.

Note that DNA from scat is a totally non-intrusive, non-invasive way of collecting information about coyotes, beyond dedicated direct-observation which takes a lot of time. A lot of what we find out in this DNA study will be confirming what I already know through hours of observation and documentation, but even more of it will be revealing new information and connections.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gail
    Apr 12, 2018 @ 20:04:14

    How interesting, Janet!
    Because of your knowledge of individual coyotes, your participation in this study must be invaluable to the researchers.

    Reply

    • yipps:janetkessler
      Apr 12, 2018 @ 20:32:47

      Hi Gail — Actually, the conception of this project, in addition to collecting the raw data, is mine, so I’m the researcher in this case. One of the things I provided Ben was a map of family groups with the relationships I know of. Hopefully this will make the study more interesting to him and his graduate students. :))

  2. Bobbie Pyron
    Apr 12, 2018 @ 21:14:57

    This is really fascinating, and will be eager to read what he finds out. My burning question is: where do you store four years worth of scat? 😉

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s