Nina Feistmantl, BSc
I am a master student at the University of Innsbruck, where I study Ecology and Biodiversity. My master thesis analyses rock ptarmigans, Lagopus muta, located at Nordkette (Austria, Tyrol, Innsbruck). Nature has always been an important part of my life, and I am especially interested in wildlife preservation. The rock ptarmigan is a species protected by the EU bird conservation directive; therefore, special measures are needed to ensure its wellbeing. However, Tyrolean rock ptarmigans have only scarcely been looked at so far. The aim of my master thesis is to study the size and structure of the rock ptarmigan population at Nordkette.
From spring to autumn, rock ptarmigan feces have been collected in six areas at Nordkette. In the lab, DNA will be extracted from these feces. Using microsatellites, individual birds will be identified. The study focuses on population genetics and will investigate into how many rock ptarmigan populations the individuals from the six areas cluster as well as whether there are signs of inbreeding. Another focus is on population size, which is going to be extrapolated by capture-recapture method based on the collected genetic data. Also, it is part of the project to compare the results of the genetic analyses in this study with a classic method whereby territories are estimated by counting singing roosters. Finally, we want to gain insight where individuals are located over a season by looking at the places where the individuals were found over the entire time period from spring to autumn.
For me, this project is highly interesting because I can work with a conservation-relevant species. I also very much enjoy the fact that the method employed by our study is non-destructive. Last but not least, I grew up in this area, and I relate to this topic on a very personal level.