Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Arizona
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Arizona Project

Evaluating the Use of Molecular Scatology for Monitoring Mammalian Species Diversity in National Parks

January 2006 - December 2015


Participating Agencies

  • Arizona Game & Fish Dept.

Goal: Compare a genetic survey technique with other existing survey techniques for terrestrial mammals, especially infrared-triggered (remote) photography. Monitoring natural resources is critical to the National Park Service mission of preserving resources for future generations. In cooperation with the NPS Sonoran Desert Network, Saguaro National Park is nearing completion of a 3-year inventory of mammals using a repeatable, randomized study design that will form the basis of a long-term monitoring program. Despite the high profile of mammals, many species are rare and difficult to sample, and several new species have been documented at the park as a result of the current effort. However, developing scientifically valid monitoring programs remains a major problem throughout the NPS due to the high costs involved. We will identify mammal species using DNA obtained from scat gathered at established monitoring plots in the Tucson Mountain District in 2003; mtDNA from scat will be compared to mtDNA sequences from published sources and tissue samples collected near the park. We will use established techniques to identify both predator and prey species from predator scat. The final product of this research will be a completed inventory of mammals at SNP that includes a cost/benefit assessment of genetic surveys in comparison with more traditional techniques.