Assistance to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Taxonomic Studies of the Red Wolf: A Review of Applications to Carry Out Research and Development of a Research Strategy
At the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will convene an ad hoc committee to provide independent guidance about taxonomic research on the red wolf, Canis rufus. This work will build on the 2019 report, Evaluating the Taxonomic Status of the Mexican Gray Wolf and the Red Wolf. The committee will carry out its work as two distinct, but interrelated activities.
Activity 1: Review of Research Applications
The committee will develop and issue a request for applications for research to determine the taxonomy of wild canid populations in southern Louisiana and any other locations where recent evidence suggests the potential presence of red wolves. The request for applications will need to include a brief description of study design that encompasses both field and laboratory work that ensures safe trapping, morphologic measurements, and hair and blood sampling of live wild canid and tools and techniques for genomic analysis of biologic samples. The committee will carry out an open solicitation, evaluate submitted applications, and rank the applications in order of merit. Merit will be determined based upon factors that influence scientific validity including the goals and objectives of the study, clear hypotheses, research methodology and design of study, proposed statistical analysis and data interpretation, animal welfare considerations, feasibility, and the qualifications, expertise, and experience of the investigators.
In a brief report, the committee will rank the applications in order of merit and provide comments on additional factors for USFWS to consider. The selection of an application for funding will depend on the committee’s recommendations and a final decision by USFWS.
Activity 2: Research Strategy to Assess Red Wolf Taxonomy
The committee will develop a research strategy to examine the evolutionary relationships between ancient red wolves, the extant red wolf populations, and the unidentified canid populations in southern Louisiana. The committee will identify the types of studies needed to improve understanding of genetic ancestry, phylogenetic relationships, morphology, behavior, and ecology, taking into consideration evidence about the role of admixture and hybridization in speciation. Although the strategy will focus on the study of the red wolf, the committee may draw upon knowledge generated from research on other organisms, particularly those with taxonomic questions parallel to those of the red wolf. The strategy will also include key considerations for sampling and analyses to minimize impact on specimens and live organisms when carrying out research.