Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

B&C Fellow - Amelia Christian

Texas A&M University - Ph.D. Student in Rangeland, Wildlife, and Fisheries Management - Projected to Graduate in 2025
Project Title: Nitrogen Metabolism and Adaptive Capacity of Carnivorous Bears

Despite growing up in the suburbs of Dallas, TX, I've been finding ways to study and interact with animals from a very young age. This led me to the Animal Science undergraduate program at Texas A&M University, where I quickly identified an affinity for animal nutrition and became involved in related research opportunities. However, my interests never quite fit the animal production industry, and I wasn't sure how I would apply animal nutrition as a career until I worked as a Research and Conservation Intern at the Memphis Zoo. There, and then into my master's program, I studied the nutrient changes associated with different species, seasons, and stages of growth of bamboo offered to the zoo’s giant pandas, as well as how these pandas selected and digested their diets. Because my project centered on a threatened species and its very habitat-dependent feed resource, I became more engaged with ecosystem and wildlife fields and refined my research interests to food resource utilization, nutritional trade-offs, livestock-wildlife interactions, and what drives animals to make dietary decisions. Eventually, I hope to find myself in a career researching and applying diets for wildlife in captivity or protected areas, studying how different organisms interact in terms of shared nutritional resources, or developing sustainable livestock management strategies in areas with wildlife conflict.

Nitrogen Metabolism and Adaptive Capacity of Carnivorous Bears

Brown bears have the ability to adapt physiologically and metabolically throughout the year by hibernating in times of resource scarcity (winter), recovering from losses incurred through hibernation, and depositing mass in preparation for hibernation. My study involves understanding protein utilization by brown bears during the period of lean mass gain immediately following hibernation and the period of fat gain prior to hibernation. Brown bears retain the gastrointestinal physiology of a true carnivorous species, but wild bears are omnivorous, consuming a wide variety of food items, seemingly dependent on availability and season. As physiological carnivores, it would be expected that protein intake would be prioritized; however, diets selected by bears in wild and captive settings indicate preference for items high in carbohydrates and fat, even in times when protein sources are abundant. There may be metabolic and physiological consequences to a highly protein-concentrated diet, which can affect success in hibernation and the following recovery. Understanding these limitations has applications in managing resources and habitat of brown bears in the wild, as well as implications for other threatened bear species.


Support Conservation

Support Hunting

Support Conservation

Support Education

"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt