Press Release

TAF To Fund Graduate Student Conducting Research on Tigers

Press Release

TAF To Fund Graduate Student Conducting Research on Tigers

BATON ROUGE, La. —Mike The Tiger is a major part of the heart and soul of LSU. Tiger pride runs deep on campus, and the LSU Tiger Athletic Foundation is turning its love of our tiger into research to benefit the species as a whole. TAF will provide the funding for a Ph.D. student in the LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources to conduct genetic research on tigers.

TAF will donate $250,000 over the next five years towards future research that will complement studies already being conducted by Alessandra Bresnan, a Ph.D. student working with Sabrina Taylor, LSU AgCenter researcher and professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources.

Bresnan is using DNA sequencing to get a better understanding of the genetic makeup of captive tigers in the United States.

“I submitted 400 tiger genomes and that includes tigers that are found in accredited zoos and ones in private hands in different facilities throughout the U.S.,” Bresnan said.

More tigers are in captivity in the U.S. than are found in the wild, and Bresnan says scientists don’t know much about the genetics of the captive population. She said there is an assumption that these tigers are highly inbred and may not be genetically diverse.

“We want to get a snapshot of the population,” she said.

Tigers in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) have pedigrees and follow species survival plans. But generic tigers, captive Tigers outside of accredited zoos, are often inbred and their genetics are of unknown origins.

Bresnan expects to find lack of genetic variation in some of the sample populations.

“If your population is invariant, so everybody is kind of the same genetically, then when change comes along such as disease or differences in climate, it means the population is less resilient to adaptation,” Taylor said. “That’s not great for their future resiliency.”

The difference in breeds and climates impact inbred tigers — such as crossing Siberian tiger with a Sumatran tiger — may be less adaptive to their native ranges impacting the species long-term.

Bresnan’s research is funded through The Tigers United University Consortium, which is made up of LSU, Auburn, Clemson and Missouri — all universities with tiger mascots. The Consortium also funds research at the other universities on wild tigers.

“The U.S. has a problem of its own with tigers that probably needs some attention,” Taylor said. “Very little published on that and so we thought that was a better area to focus on.”

From Bresnan’s data, the researchers will have a baseline for the three subspecies the AZA has species survival plans.

“By funding this Ph.D student, not only is TAF finding a way to give back to the Academic side of LSU but also supporting the beloved symbol of the LSU community. We are also proud that this initiative is working in conjunction with other institutions in the SEC for a mission that is bigger than ourselves,” says Matt Borman, CEO of the Tiger Athletic Foundation.

Tiger fans and anyone who loves and appreciates these majestic animals and are looking to get involved can contribute to the Mike The Tiger’s Habitat fund through the TAF at which supports regular maintenance and upgrades to Mike’s habitat.