ESU’s Wildlife DNA Laboratory Receives $18,000 Research Grant to Fund Genetic Profile of River Otters in Pennsylvania

Posted by: Valentina Caval on March 26, 2013, No Comments

Attached photo: river otter. Photo credit: James Kauffman (M.S., 2011)

Jane Huffman, Ph.D., East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania (ESU) professor of biological sciences and director of the ESU Wildlife DNA Laboratory, was recently awarded an $18,000 grant from the Wild Resource Conservation Program, a part of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.  Her project, Genetic Variability, Dietary Analysis, Parasitic Infections and Spatial Dynamics of Nearctic River Otters (Lontra candensis) in Pennsylvania, will create a genetic profile of river otters in Pennsylvania including a dietary analysis, and a survey of parasites and infectious diseases present in the otter population.

Through this project, Dr. Huffman and her graduate and undergraduate students, will use state-of-the art equipment to observe otter populations within the Commonwealth. Their work will provide important baseline data about the otter populations to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and students will experience valuable hands-on education field work.

“This grant will fund scholarly activity that will provide wildlife officials and ESU students with valuable insights,” said Dr. Huffman. “The grant will help to develop a genotypic profile of the population structure of the Pennsylvania river otter.”

The Pennsylvania river otter population was nearly depleted in the 1900s and was reintroduced to habitats through a program that ended in 2004. Monitoring the populations has been difficult due to the remoteness of otter habitats.  River otters live in freshwater habitats. Their presence can be an indicator of water quality in an area.

The Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory is part of the ESU department of biological sciences. It provides services which determine and differentiate genetic variation within and among populations and species of wildlife for biological and forensic applications.

For more information about the grant and ESU Wildlife DNA Laboratory, contact Dr. Huffman at 570-422-3716 or by email at