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Notre Dame researchers are providing insights into elephant behavior and conservation issues
Date:2/28/2012

Last year, Kenya lost 278 elephants to poachers, as compared to 177 in 2010. On the continent of Africa as whole, elephants have declined from an estimated 700,000 in 1990 to 360,000 today due to the demands of the ivory trade.

Spend some time with University of Notre Dame researchers Elizabeth Archie and Patrick Chiyo and you'll gain a better understanding of just what a tragic loss elephant poaching is.

A thinking, reasoning species with extraordinary memories, a strong sense of families and caring and nurturing natures are increasingly at the risk of extinction.

Archie's Notre Dame lab combines fieldwork and genetics research to understand the causes and consequences of social behavior in wild mammals. Her research team examines how migration, mating and social patterns impact the genetics and evolution of a species and its fitness and susceptibility to diseases.

Archie, Clare Booth Luce Assistant Professor of Biology, and Chiyo, a Moreau postdoctoral fellow, use research techniques that range from behavioral observations of wild animals to noninvasive genetic tools to genotype species and their parasites and patterns.

The research lab studies baboons in and elephants in Kenya. Archie and Chiyo work with the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP), located just north of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya, which is the longest running study of wild elephants.

In the field, the researchers observe the behavior of the elephants and collect samples for genetic analysis, usually from noninvasive sources, such as dung. In their Notre Dame lab, they use the dung samples to characterize the parasites infecting individual animals and extract DNA to conduct genetic analysis.

Their field work and genetic analysis are revealing fascinating insights into elephant population genetics and social behavior, as well as how human activities alter elephants' social and genetic structures.

Their research has found, for example, that female el
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Contact: Elizabeth Archie
earchie@nd.edu
574-631-0178
University of Notre Dame
Source:Eurekalert

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