The $5.1 million includes $1.7 million in federal support from Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada, $2.1 million from Parks Canada, and additional support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Researchers in Saskatchewan aim to improve bison health as well as create a genetically diverse bison population.
“The bison as a species continues to struggle” says Dr. Gregg Adams of the University of Saskatchewan Western College of Veterinary Medicine.
The Bison Integrated Genomics (BIG) project is a three year process aiming to address diseases impacting Canada’s wood bison population like tuberculoses and brucella.
“The (BIG) project has the potential of not only reducing but potentially eradicating two major diseases across Canadian wood bison herds, tuberculoses, and brucella” says CEO of Genome Prairie Mike Cey.
As part of the project, Genome Prairie and Genome Canada are looking to develop a vaccine to address both diseases in one go.
“That will be a novel vaccine and it will be developed specifically to reduce the prevalence in some of the infected herds in Northern Canada, in and around Wood Buffalo National Park” says Dr. Todd Shury with Parks Canada.
Shury says the vaccine will be orally given.
Wood Buffalo National Park is home to more than four thousand bison and Parks Canada says a large majority will need to be vaccinated.
“We’re going to have to have upwards of 70 to 80 per cent of the population to be protected to have any effect on reducing the prevelence of those two diseases over time” says Shury.
Genome Prairie says bison herds in Canada are usually small and isolated, leading to a lack of diversity. The BIG project plans to tackle the diversity issue by tranfering an animals genetics.
“My research in particular has dealt with techniques that allow us to collect semen and embryos so that we can move gametes around embryos rather than the whole animal” said Dr. Gregg Adams.
Adams says as long as the bison are being hit with these diseases, these genetic tools cannot be used until a successful vaccine has been given to the bison in Wood Buffalo National Park.