Searching for Red Wolf Ghosts - the Gulf Coast Canine Project

The Gulf Coast Canine Project’s goals are to understand the genetic ancestry and ecology of wild canids persisting along the Gulf Coast of the United States. The project arose out of reports of large-bodied, red wolf-like canids in southwestern Louisiana and eastern Texas. Scientists' early research on Galveston Island, Texas, confirmed that Galveston Island coyotes have large amounts of red wolf genetic ancestry and were unlike coyotes elsewhere. Following this discovery, researchers live trapped and radio-collared canids along the southwestern Louisiana coast to determine taxonomy of canid populations with comprehensive genetic, morphological, and ecological analyses.

The Wolf Conservation Center hosted Drs. Kristin E. Brzeski, Bridgett M. vonHoldt, and Joseph W. Hinton on January 27, 2022 at 6 pm ET for an overview of the research, including next steps. They summarized their current research activities and some preliminary findings to illustrate how these canid populations along the Gulf Coast harbor lost red wolf genetic ancestry and how that ancestry may influence their unique morphology and behaviors. If these canid populations are reservoirs of lost red wolf genetic ancestry, they may be used to bolster the small and vulnerable red wolf population.

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS

Dr. Kristin E. Brzeski

Kristin is an Assistant Professor in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University, where her lab’s research focuses on wildlife genetics, conservation, and management. Dr. Brzeski has been conducting red wolf conservation science since her PhD and is leading the initiative to understand the genetic ancestry and ecology of the unique Gulf Coast canid population. In addition to her canid research, Dr. Brzeski is a co-founder of Biodiversity Initiative, an NGO that works to conserve biodiversity. Currently, her team is working with local conservation practitioners to monitor and protect endemic Central Africa wildlife.

Kristin Credit

Dr. Bridgett M. von Holdt

Bridgett is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. Her research program investigates genomic signatures of demographic events, namely admixture and selection with a focus on wild and domestic species. Her program integrates computational and molecular approaches to connect evolutionary history with applications in fields of wildlife management, companion animal health, and endangered species policy. Her research has shaped species protections with updated genomic perspectives and contributed significant insights regarding behavioral evolution of the domestic dog.

Bridgett Credit Sm

Dr. Joey W. Hinton

Joey is a wildlife ecologist with the Wolf Conservation Center where he serves as the Senior Research Scientist. His research background focuses on the conservation and management of canids, specifically red wolves and coyotes, but also includes dabbling in some ungulate research. Joey’s ongoing projects include the ecology and conservation of the reintroduced red wolf population in northeastern North Carolina, the ecology and management of coyotes in the southeastern United States, and the ecology and management of moose in the Adirondack Park of northern New York.

Joey Credit