Genetic Diversity and Genetic Similarity Between Urban and Rural White-Tailed Deer Populations in Iowa

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Briggs, Whitney
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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.

The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.

Natural Resource Ecology and Management

Although urbanization negatively impacts many wildlife species, white-tailed deer have successfully adapted to living in urban environments. Abundant resources, such as food and shelter, attract deer to urban habitats and increase their survival rates, supporting high population densities which pose challenges for those tasked with managing urban deer. Understanding the magnitude of movement between deer in urban and surrounding rural areas is pivotal to designing effective population control efforts. The objective of our research is to estimate the degree of genetic similarity between adjacent urban and rural deer populations in several Iowa cities to better understand the amount of movement between them. We extracted DNA from hunter-harvested deer tissue samples and genotyped individuals at 10 microsatellite loci. We then measured genetic diversity and estimated how genetically similar urban and adjacent rural populations were to one another. Preliminary results suggest urban and rural deer are genetically similar enough to infer that they are connected. If urban and rural deer are genetically similar, this suggests there is a high rate of movement between the two areas indicating adjacent rural deer should be included when planning management of urban deer.