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To catch a panda
Date:12/10/2007

EAST LANSING, Mich. Michigan State Universitys panda habitat research team has spent years collecting mountains of data aimed at understanding and saving giant pandas. Now a graduate student is working to catch crucial data thats black, white and furry.

Vanessa Hull, 25, a Ph.D. candidate, is in the snowy, remote mountains of the Sichuan Province of China which also is the heart of panda habitat. Shes hoping to capture, collar and track up to four wild pandas using advanced global positioning systems.

Hull, a student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is among the first since the 1990s in this crucial area to obtain permits to trap the pandas and fit them with GPS collars. She and the team will map where these elusive creatures go, effectively letting the pandas tell the researchers the habitat they like best.

Reintroducing captive pandas into the wild is a very difficult process because pandas in captivity arent used to be in wild, they dont have the survival skills, Hull said. The researchers in China want to collaborate with us closely.

Scientists can mesh what the pandas tell them with that mountain of data. It can help them identify the most hospitable panda neighborhoods, learn how to preserve those and create more.

We are very excited about this new project. It will generate lots of long-awaited important information about panda biology, behavior and interactions with human activities, says Jianguo "Jack" Liu, Hulls major adviser, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and University Distinguished Professor of fisheries and wildlife.

For the past dozen years, the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, led by Liu, painstakingly has gathered and crunched data on the pandas habitat, in collaboration with Professor Zhiyun Ouyang at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Director Hemin Zhang at Wolong Nature Reserve.

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Contact: Sue Nichols
nichols@msu.edu
517-353-8942
Michigan State University  
Source:Eurekalert

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