The reindeer herders of Western Alaska face many production challenges. In addition to the special challenges that the remoteness and ruggedness of the landscape present, they are faced with the questions that all livestock producers must attempt to answer: What is the most cost effective way to feed my animals? How to I prevent overgrazing of my range? What diseases should I worry about and what can I do to keep my herd healthy? What factors affect the quality of the meat from my animals? Because our research is driven by the concerns of the producer, and because these questions are not isolated from one another, we have a variety of overlapping research interests.
One of our main areas of study is range management & nutrition, which addresses some of the feeding challenges faced by those producers who use range as the exclusive nutritional resource, as well as those who rely on supplemental feed. We also address various animal health issues, including parasites and established and emerging diseases. Various conditions in either of these areas (and more) can affect the quality of the meat product. In response, we have addressed several meat quality questions.
Monitoring reindeer on the vast open ranges can be challenging, even impossible at certain times of year. One of the tools we use to keep track of the deer, as well as to gather data for various research projects, is radio & satellite telemetry. These technologies are fundamental to our work.
In addition to conducting research, we are involved in outreach to the community. This includes working closely with the producers to help find solutions to their production issues, as well as educating school children and the general public about reindeer related issues.