Hair as a non-invasive tool to monitor wildlife populations

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Jesper Bruun Mosbacher


DKK 350,000




Internationalisation Fellowships


The aim of this project is to evaluate and develop the use of hair as a novel, non-invasive tool for monitoring the status and trends of wildlife populations. Specifically, the project aims to link mineral levels in hair of mammals, here the muskox, to vital health conditions in the individual and, ultimately, population demographics. Such a tool will have major implications for the conservation and management of wildlife populations where traditional monitoring is not feasible.


Monitoring population status and trends is at the core of species conservation and management. However, full-blown demographic studies of populations are time consuming, expensive, and not always logistically feasible. This is particularly true in remote areas such as the Arctic. Indeed, the lack of knowledge about population sizes over time of many arctic mammal species is of international concern. Additionally, the use of traditional sampling methods are often constrained, and there is a need for developing novel, non-invasive methods to serve as an indicator of population dynamics. This project aims at improving our knowledge of an Arctic key species, while developing new methods for species monitoring that could be an important component of wildlife management for remote species.


Assessing population health can offer a promising alternative to direct population censuses, as animal health status is closely linked to population dynamics. Here, sampling and analysis of hair is a promising method to estimate population health due to several inherent characteristics. Additionally, many mammals undergo seasonal molts, and hair can therefore easily be sampled and stored non-invasively. In this project, muskox hair samples will be obtained from harvested muskoxen in Canada and Greenland, together other samples, e.g. blood samples, to estimate the health condition of the animals and the population. This will allow the opportunity to link measures in hair samples to relevant health conditions of the animals, and thereby, ultimately, to the population demographics.

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