Miss Eleanor Fraya Kean
I started my PhD at Cardiff University in April 2008, supervised by Dr Elizabeth Chadwick and Dr Carsten Müller. My research focuses on otter scent communication and using it to develop a new technique for monitoring wild populations.
Standard methods for monitoring otter (Lutra lutra) populations such as spraint surveys, identify the presence of otters but do not provide information on population structure. While DNA analysis of spraints can identify individual otters, it is costly, time-consuming and has a low success rate. A novel method of obtaining population data is needed for more detailed monitoring of otter populations and to assess conservation efforts.
Chemical profiling of otter spraint has the potential to provide much needed information e.g. sex, age, reproductive status or individual identity as it is thought that otters largely communicate by scent marking. Volatiles eluting from the content of otter scent glands taken at post mortem are being analysed using SPME (Solid Phase Microextraction) and GC-MS (Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry). Plans for future work include development of a predictive model to discriminate otter identity (e.g. sex, age or reproductive status) and testing the model using spraint from known individuals in captivity. The feasibility of using this technique for population monitoring will be tested through spraint collections from three river catchments in Britain.