Tag Archives: Rolf Peterson

Isle Royale Wolf-Moose News Article in “Nature”

The monumental Isle Royale Wolf/Moose Study, which has been active for more than fifty years, has been a riveting drama to follow. In recent years, the wolf population has been in decline, raising questions as to the future of the wolf on Isle Royale. Below-average temperatures this winter have created an ice bridge between Isle Royale and the mainland, a fairly-rare and potentially promising event for the wolves of Isle Royale. Read what Michigan Tech’s Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich have to say on the subject in this week’s issue of Nature http://www.nature.com/news/iconic-island-study-on-its-last-legs-1.14697 and don’t miss the link to the editorial at the end of the article.

In the News – Peterson and Vucetich

A news story by Associated Press wire service about the latest research on the wolves and moose of Isle Royale National Park, conducted by Professor Emeritus Rolf Peterson and Associate Professor John Vucetich , was published by newspapers nationwide, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It was also aired by radio and TV stations. See SF Gate.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has posted an eight-minute audio slide show on its web site about Michigan Tech’s ongoing wolf-moose research at Isle Royale National Park. The presentation features Professor Emeritus Rolf Peterson and Associate Professor John Vucetich, as well as their colleague, Michael Nelson, an environmental ethicist at Michigan State University. Although the audio slide show is accessible only to members of AAAS, a free three-day trial membership will enable you to see it. Sign up for the free trial membership at AAAS.

Special Volunteer Opportunity: Wolf-Moose Research Program

Isle Royale, Summer 2012. Isle Royale MooseJoin us in the field for a Moosewatch research expedition as part of the Wolf-Moose Study program on Isle Royale!
Do you have an interest in wildlife ecology and wolf-moose dynamics? Are you passionate about wilderness camping and our National Parks? Are you a hardy soul with a tolerance for bugs, lack of conveniences, and long days of rugged hiking? If so, please consider a special opportunity to volunteer for the renowned wolf-moose study at Isle Royale National Park. Expedition teams are being organized right now
Expedition #1: May 5–13, via Voyageur II, Grand Portage, MN
Expedition #2: May 14– 21, via Queen IV, Copper Harbor, MI
Expedition #3: May 26–June 3, via Voyageur II, Grand Portage, MN
Expedition #4: July 31–August 8, via Ranger III, Houghton, MI

Please visit www.isleroyalewolf.org (click on Research Expeditions) to learn about how you can participate this summer. You will find information about the Moosewatch research expeditions, photos, and how to apply. If you have specific questions, please contact Ken Vrana (kjvrana@mtu.edu), director, Isle Royale Institute.

We hope to see some of you on the island this summer!
John Vucetich and Leah Vucetich
Rolf Peterson and Candy Peterson

In the News: John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson

Assistant Professor John Vucetich and Research Professor Rolf Peterson contributed to “Great Lakes National Parks in Peril,” a report released Wednesday by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report fingers climate change as a cause for the slump in Isle Royale National Park’s moose population and the subsequent decline in the number of wolves. The report is available park.

Ecologists Link Early Malnutrition, Later Arthritis in Moose

An Isle Royale moose prepares to bed down in winter.
An Isle Royale moose prepares to bed down in winter.

July 7, 2010—By Jennifer Donovan
As a 150-pound person ages, the aches and pains of osteoarthritis—a degenerative and progressively crippling joint disease—often become an unpleasant fact of life. Think how the same condition hurts a 1,000-pound moose.

In a report just published in Ecology Letters online, Michigan Technological University wildlife ecologists Rolf O. Peterson and John A.Vucetich; Thomas Drummer a professor of mathematics at Michigan Tech; and colleagues in Minnesota and Ohio describe a link between malnutrition early in a moose’s life and osteoarthritis as the animal ages.

“I’ve long thought that there was a nutritional link to the increase in osteoarthritis in moose on Isle Royale—a wilderness island national park in northwestern Lake Superior—as the population of the animals grew in the 1960s and 1970s,” says Peterson, who hold the Robbins Chair in Sustainable Management of the Environment. He even hypothesized this nutritional link in a paper published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases in 1988, a paper that the scientist says was largely ignored.

Three generations of wildlife ecologists have been studying the moose of Isle Royale and their primary predators, wolves, for more than 50 years. A key factor in the study has been the discovery and analysis of the bones of moose that die on Isle Royale.

During the first two decades of the study, the scientists found increasing evidence of osteoarthritis in moose bones on Isle Royale, mostly in the animals’ hip joints and lower spine. This type of arthritis is identical to the kind that affects humans and many other mammals.

Unlike the damaged and partial skeletons usually recovered from archeological digs, the bones of moose that die in the wilderness setting of Isle Royale usually reveal details such as gender, age and degree of osteoarthritis. And they often include metatarsal leg bones, which are extremely sensitive to prenatal nutrition.

“After birth, the mass of a moose increases 30-fold, but when a moose is born, the metatarsus is already half grown,” Peterson explains. That gives them a leg up for  running fast to escape their predators, the wolves.

Matching the length of a moose’s metatarsal bone with the degree of osteoarthritis found in the hip joints and spine provided Peterson and his team with their best evidence of a nutritional link to osteoarthritis.

They found that the moose with the shortest metatarsal bones—indicating poor early nutrition—were the ones more likely to develop osteoarthritis later in their lives. They also learned that during the years when the moose were most numerous coincided with the highest observed rates of osteoarthritis in moose born during that time. As the moose population declined, improving the availability of adequate nutrition, osteoarthritis declined among the better-nourished moose as they aged.

“This physiological association also has ecological implications,” Peterson wrote. “The debilitating effects of osteoarthritis would inhibit a moose’s ability to kick or dodge a lunging wolf. Consequently, the incidence of osteoarthritis is associated with the rate at which wolves kill moose on Isle Royale.”

The ecologists’ findings on osteoarthritis in the moose of Isle Royale have implications for understanding arthritis in humans, Peterson went on to say.  Studies of humans and other animals have increasingly linked many chronic adult diseases with nutritional deficiencies early in life. “Our study suggests the need to consider more carefully whether osteoarthritis is like other late-onset pathologies, including heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, that appear to have risk factors established early in life,” he said. “The apparent link between early nutrition and osteoarthritis indicates that the cause of osteoarthritis is more complex than commonly assumed.”

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Park Service and Earthwatch, Inc.

Michigan Technological University (mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.