Bison Integrated Genomics (BIG) Project
Outcome of BIG Project
Diagnostic assays for bovine bTB
Prototype combined recombinant Brucella/rBCG vaccine for use in wood bison
Validated SNP chip to evaluate the genetic composition
Transfer of healthy germplasm between wild and genetically depauperate herds
Benefits to Canada
The BIG project will provide Parks Canada and other conservation agencies with technologically advanced tools to manage the northern diseased bison issue, a uniquely Canadian, and wicked ecological problem that has defied resolution for the past 30 years. Genomic-enabled disease management tools to support bison conservation and reduce threats to domestic cattle and bison ultimately improve Indigenous food security in northern Canada and restore cultural connections through greater access to the harvest of healthy, genetically distinct wood bison without fear of human transmission of these zoonotic diseases. A recombinant rBCG/Brucella vaccine that could be delivered orally to wild bison will be given to Parks Canada and provincial/ territorial governments as the first significant major tool to conserve and establish populations of healthy wood bison by reducing a long-standing threat to both bison recovery and Canadian cattle and bison export markets. The genomic-enabled tool developed by the BIG team, will allow targeted distribution of genetically profiled germplasm for continental-scale conservation of bison in North America. This will also allow Parks Canada and other bison conservation agencies material to reduce the impacts of the loss of genetic diversity in small, valuable bison conservation herds such as Elk Island, Prince Albert and Grassland National Parks and will ultimately allow the transfer of germplasm across international borders. Collection, disinfection and storage of sperm and embryos from targeted herds will result in one of the largest acquisitions of viable germplasm from living-free genetic materials in the world. This repository of genomically characterized and disease-free genetic material provides the benefits of increasing the availability of genetics throughout Canada’s conservation herds and ensuring a bio-secure and cost-effective method to distribute the material nationally and internationally, eliminating the challenges and risks of transporting live bison. The biobank will also support bison conservation efforts by others such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, provincial and territorial governments, First Nations and private and public zoological parks and herds in Canada and the USA.