The isotope study gives exciting new insights into the ecology of elusive jaguars, Wultsch said.
“Jaguars face habitat loss and fragmentations across most of their range,” she said. “Noninvasive monitoring of jaguars using a multidisciplinary approach of isotopes, genetics and camera traps will help us understand how they are responding to environmental change and different human pressures.”
Previously, Crowley has used isotopic analysis to identify habitat needs of Henst’s goshawks in Madagascar and the migration of prehistoric horses in North America, among other projects.
While studying the digested bones in jaguar scat, Crowley discovered that little research has been done on whether digestion affects isotopic signatures. She is working with the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden to answer that question. She and her former student, UC graduate Maddie Greenwood, are studying the digested remains of scat from the zoo’s serval, Jambo, along with birds of prey to find out if there are any isotopic changes from digestion.
Strontium analysis holds tremendous potential for wildlife conservation, she said.
“Archaeologists have been using it longer. But it’s very powerful and underutilized in modern ecology and paleoecology studies,” Crowley said.
You don't have to be a conservationist working in South America to help jaguars and other rainforest animals. Crowley said consumer choices here in the United States and elsewhere can make a big difference in protecting natural resources.
"The decisions we make as consumers drive deforestation elsewhere," she said.
By buying locally-raised beef, responsibly grown coffee and other sustainably sourced foods, people can help prevent deforestation, she said. Likewise, many nonprofits such as the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy use donations to help preserve habitat and pay for conservation work.
"Conservation of our planet's remaining biodiversity is crucial. Biodiversity keeps everything in balance. We rely on the planet for our survival," she said.