Reindeer interactions from plants and birds to humans: balancing the odds of climate change
The Kick Off meeting for our REININ project took place at the University of Oslo on the 14-16 December 2016.
About the project
In this project we the tackle the trophic ecology of the reindeer - one of the last remnants of the Beringian megafauna in the Arctic, keystone species, with high cultural and economic value for indigenous residents. While reindeer husbandry is relatively small in terms of economics at a national scale, it is deeply rooted in history, culture and supports the traditional subsistence of indigenous peoples. But degradation and loss of pastures at a circumpolar scale, combined with the consequences of climate change, present substantial challenges to the future of reindeer husbandry.
Within this context, the objectives of REININ are two-fold:
- Documenting variations in reindeer diet quality and composition across seasons, habitats and geographic regions, and in relation with the presence/absence of other herbivore species in the Arctic, such as geese, ptarmigan or rodents;
- Integrating this ecosystem-based information with socio-economic data and local knowledge of reindeer herders in order to identify relevant governance solutions for sustainable reindeer husbandry and resilient tundra ecosystem management in the face of global change.
For this, we will be using DNA metabarcoding and stable isotope ratios, for analyzing the geographic, climatic and seasonal patterns of reindeer diet variation across different socio-economic and ecological contexts in four arctic regions: Svalbard (wild reindeer populations, no management), Finnmark (semi-domesticated reindeers, long traditions in herding), Russian Arctic (wild and domestic reindeers, long traditions in herding), Canada and Alaska (wild populations of caribou and recently introduced reindeer herding).
The success of our projects lies in its interdisciplinary team comprising experienced national and international field and molecular ecologists, botanists, and social scientists. The project will be closely linked to the PhyloAlps, NorBOL and REINCLIM (NCR, POLARPROG) projects to ensure immediate access to new developments in metabarcoding and bioinformatics.
We are actively looking for motivated students to whom we offer exciting research questions and working atmosphere as well as numerous opportunities for field- and lab-work using the most advanced molecular DNA techniques for diet analysis. Individual MSc projects could be formulated depending upon interests and preferences of the student and/or people involved.
This project is funded by the Research Council of Norway.