Carsten Nowak (Senckenberg Research Institutes and Natural History Museums, Germany) | December 2, 2014 - 15h45 | CIBIO’s Auditorium, Campus de Vairão




By the late 19th century large carnivores where widely eradicated from Central Europe. In Germany, with its high population density and intensive land use, bears, lynx, and wolves where brought to extinction without any refugial populations persisting. To the surprise of most experts, however, all three species have recently left their marks in the country. While the brown bear did not survive its short-term return in 2006, the return of lynxes and wolves started already some decades ago and numbers are steadily increasing. A similar trend can be observed for several medium-sized carnivores in Germany, such as otters and wildcats, which survived massive persecution in several relict populations and currently spread throughout the country. In the presentation I will present some of my group's ongoing research focusing on genetic monitoring of mammals in Germany and the reconstruction of this stunning recovery. While few data are shown for lynx, otters, and bears as well, I will focus on wildcats and wolves. In case of the wildcat we collected >2500 individual microsatellite genotypes from noninvasive hair trapping during the past years and currently analyse population structure, local hybridization rates. In case of the wolf, we are also interested in revealing source-areas of recolonization, pack structure, inbreeding and long-distance dispersal. For wolves, wildcats and otters we apply recently developed Fluifdigm-based SNP panels along control region sequences and microsatellites, providing an efficient and easy-to-use alternative tool for noninvasive genetic wildlife monitoring, which promises to overcome some of the technical difficulties with microsatellites.


Carsten Nowak is the Head of Conservation Genetics Section of the Senckenberg Research Institutes, and the Head of National Reference Centre for Large Carnivore Genetics in Germany. Carsten is fascinated by the great potential of molecular methods to answer urgent questions in the fields of species conservation and population management in a world of rapid environmental change. Nature conservation often suffers from a lack of sound scientific data as a solid base for efficient management of populations or protected areas. Genetics may be used to answer questions which otherwise remain mysterious; such as the origin of populations, inbreeding rates, or the native or introduced status of populations. Moreover, Carsen has a long-lasting interest in the effects of rapid, human-caused environmental alterations on the fundamental level of biodiversity, namely genetic variation within and among species. His research group tries to provide answers to some questions which are relevant for biodiversity conservation in Central Europe, including the potential loss of genetic diversity by means of climate change and environmental pollution, as well as the detection of rare species with the help of sensitive molecular tools. Currently, Carsen is mainly working in conservation genetics of large and medium carnivores using non-invasive sampling. In this talk he will present his recent results on the European populations of wolves and wildcats, as well as on methodological developments for studying large carnivores.


[Host: Paulo Célio Alves, Conservation Genetics and Wildlife Management]


Image credits: Francisco Álvares (wolf) Paulo Célio Alves (wildcat)