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Kristine L. Pilgrim

Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime, Italy

Biological Science Lab Technician

800 East Beckwith Avenue
Missoula, MT 59801
Contact Kristine L. Pilgrim

Current Research

My research can broadly be divided into two areas: one is exploring new genetic tools and technologies and their applicability to questions of species distribution and population dynamics. The other is applying existing genetic techniques to our and our partners' wildlife studies. Much of the research I am involved in aides managers and other researchers by using genetic tools to help detect and monitor rare/elusive species. Our work spans many different species, but among them are lynx, wolverine, fisher, cougar, Italian wolves, mountain beaver and several ungulate species.

Research Interests

I am interested in using genetics to help monitor rare and often elusive species. I am particularly interested in the work we do using non-invasive samples to gain information and insight into many of the small populations we work with. I am very interested in issues of hybridization, and the ability to help determine where dispersing individuals (especially for large-ranging species such as cougar and wolverine) originate from.

Past Research

Our laboratory has many long-term genetic data sets that allow population monitoring at the broad scale, but also in several cases we are able to aide managers by helping determine relationships of individuals in these sometimes very small populations. Our datasets on lynx have also been used in law enforcement cases.

Why This Research is Important

In the past, my research has involved many different species (including bighorn sheep, pink salmon, wolves) looking at questions of population dynamics, evolutionary history and hybridization.


  • University of Montana, B.S., Cell and Molecular Biology, 1996
  • University of Montana, M.S., Organismal Biology & Ecology, 1999
  • Featured Publications


    McKelvey, Kevin S.; Kallstrom, Corey; Ledbetter, Jeri; Sada, Donald W.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2020. An inventory of springsnails (Pyrgulopsis spp.) in and adjacent to the Spring Mountains, Nevada
    Thompson, Daniel B.; McKelvey, Kevin S.; van Els, Paul; Andrew, Gretchen; Jacoby‑Garrett, Paula; Glenn, Matt; Kallstrom, Corey; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Opler, Paul A., 2020. Conserve the eco-evolutionary dynamic, not the subspecies: Phenological divergence and gene flow between temporal cohorts of Euphilotes ancilla endemic to southern Nevada
    Happe, Patricia J.; Jenkins, Kurt J.; Mccaffery, Rebecca M.; Lewis, Jeffrey C.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2020. Occupancy patterns in a reintroduced fisher population during reestablishment
    DeCesare, Nicholas J.; Weckworth, Byron V; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Walker, Andrew B. D.; Bergman, Eric J.; Colson, Kassidy E.; Corrigan, Rob; Harris, Richard B.; Hebblewhite, Mark; Jesmer, Brett R.; Newby, Jesse R.; Smith, Jason R.; Tether, Rob B.; Thomas, Timothy P.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2020. Phylogeography of moose in western North America
    Schwartz, Michael K.; Walters, Ashley; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Moriarty, K. M.; Slauson, K. M.; Zielinski, W. J.; Aubry, K. B.; Sacks, B. N.; Zarn, Katie; Quinn, C. B.; Young, Michael K., 2020. Pliocene-early Pleistocene geological events structure Pacific martens (Martes caurina)
    Reynolds-Hogland, Melissa J.; Ramsey, Alan B.; Seward, August T.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Engkjer, Cory L.; Ramsey, Philip W., 2020. Response of a remnant marmot population to habitat enhancement yields insights into marmot ecology
    Barber-Meyer, Shannon M.; Dysthe, Joseph; Pilgrim, Kristine L., 2020. Testing environmental DNA from wolf snow tracks for species, sex, and individual identification
    Roffler, Gretchen H.; Waite, Jason N.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Zarn, Katherine E.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2019. Estimating abundance of a cryptic social carnivore using spatially explicit capture-recapture
    Peelle, Laurel E.; Wirsing, Aaron J.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2019. Identifying predators from saliva at kill sites with limited remains
    Young, Michael K.; Smith, Rebecca J.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Fairchild, Matthew P.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2019. Integrative taxonomy refutes a species hypothesis: The asymmetric hybrid origin of Arsapnia arapahoe (Plecoptera, Capniidae)
    Moriarty, Katie M.; Aubry, Keith B.; Morozumi, Connor N.; Howell, Betsy L.; Happe, Patricia J.; Jenkins, Kurt J.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2019. Status of Pacific Martens (Martes caurina) on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington
    Franklin, Thomas W.; McKelvey, Kevin S.; Golding, Jessie; Mason, Daniel H.; Dysthe, Joseph; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Squires, John R.; Aubry, Keith B.; Long, Robert A.; Greaves, Samuel; Raley, Catherine M.; Jackson, Scott; MacKay, Paula; Lisbon, Joshua; Sauder, Joel D.; Pruss, Michael T.; Heffington, Don; Schwartz, Michael K., 2019. Using environmental DNA methods to improve winter surveys for rare carnivores: DNA from snow and improved noninvasive techniques
    Young, Michael K.; McKelvey, Kevin S.; Jennings, Tara; Carter, Katie; Cronn, Richard; Keeley, Ernest R.; Loxterman, Janet L.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2018. The phylogeography of westslope cutthroat trout
    Kirol, Christopher P.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Sutphin, Andrew L.; Maechtle, Thomas L., 2018. Using DNA from hairs left at depredated greater sage-grouse nests to detect mammalian nest predators
    Juarez, Rebeca L.; Schwartz, Michael K.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Thompson, Daniel J.; Tucker, Stephanie A.; Smith, Joshua B.; Jenks, Jonathan A., 2016. Assessing temporal genetic variation in a cougar population: Influence of harvest and neighboring populations
    Young, Michael K.; Isaak, Daniel J.; McKelvey, Kevin S.; Wilcox, Taylor M.; Bingham, Daniel M.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Carim, Kellie; Campbell, Matthew R.; Corsi, Matthew P.; Horan, Dona; Nagel, David E.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2016. Climate, demography, and zoogeography predict introgression thresholds in salmonid hybrid zones in Rocky Mountain streams
    Roffler, Gretchen H.; Schwartz, Michael K.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Talbot, Sandra L.; Sage, George K.; Adams, Layne G.; Luikart, Gordon, 2016. Identification of landscape features influencing gene flow: How useful are habitat selection models?
    Hawley, Jason E.; Rego, Paul W.; Wydeven, Adrian P.; Schwartz, Michael K.; Viner, Tabitha C.; Kays, Roland; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Jenks, Jonathan A., 2016. Long-distance dispersal of a subadult male cougar from South Dakota to Connecticut documented with DNA evidence
    McKelvey, Kevin S.; Young, Michael K.; Wilcox, Taylor M.; Bingham, Daniel M.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2016. Patterns of hybridization among cutthroat trout and rainbow trout in northern Rocky Mountain streams
    Kretser, Heidi; Glennon, Michale; Whitelaw, Alice; Hurt, Aimee; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2016. Scat-detection dogs survey low density moose in New York
    Proffitt, K. M.; Goldberg, J. F.; Hebblewhite, M.; Russell, R.; Jimenez, B. S.; Robinson, H. S.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2015. Integrating resource selection into spatial capture-recapture models for large carnivores
    Lemoine, Michael; Young, Michael K.; McKelvey, Kevin S.; Eby, Lisa; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2014. Cottus schitsuumsh, a new species of sculpin (Scorpaeniformes: Cottidae) in the Columbia River basin, Idaho-Montana, USA
    Roffler, Gretchen H.; Talbot, Sandra L.; Luikart, Gordon; Sage, George K.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Adams, Layne G.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2014. Lack of sex-biased dispersal promotes fine-scale genetic structure in alpine ungulates
    McKelvey, Kevin S.; Aubry, Keith B.; Anderson, Neil J.; Clevenger, Anthony P.; Copeland, Jeffrey P.; Heinemeyer, Kimberley S.; Inman, Robert M.; Squires, John R.; Waller, John S.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2014. Recovery of wolverines in the western United States: Recent extirpation and recolonization or range retraction and expansion?
    McKelvey, Kevin S.; Aubry, Keith B.; Anderson, Neil J.; Clevenger, Anthony P.; Copeland, Jeffrey P.; Heinemeyer, Kimberley S.; Inman, Robert M.; Squires, John R.; Waller, John S.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2014. Recovery of wolverines in the western United States: recent extirpation and recolonization or range retraction and expansion?
    Young, Michael K.; McKelvey, Kevin S.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2013. DNA barcoding at riverscape scales: Assessing biodiversity among fishes of the genus Cottus (Teleostei) in northern Rocky Mountain streams
    Zielinski, William J.; Schlexer, Fredrick V.; George, T. Luke; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2013. Estimating abundance and survival in the endangered Point Arena Mountain beaver using noninvasive genetic methods
    Schwartz, Michael K.; Saunder, Joel; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Vinkey, Ray; Lucid, Michael K.; Parks, Sean A.; Albrecht, Nathan, 2013. Fisher population and landscape genetics
    McKelvey, Kevin S.; Ramirez, Jennifer E.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Cushman, Samuel A.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2013. Genetic sampling of Palmer's chipmunks in the Spring Mountains, Nevada
    Lucid, Michael; Robinson, L.; Cushman, Samuel A.; Allen, L.; Schwartz, Michael K.; Pilgrim, Kristine L., 2013. Status of fisher in the northern Idaho panhandle and adjacent mountain ranges
    Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Zielinski, William J.; Schlexer, Fredrick V.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2012. Development of a reliable method for determining sex for a primitive rodent, the Point Arena mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa nigra)
    Tucker, Jody M.; Schwartz, Michael K.; Truex, Richard L.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Allendorf, Fred W., 2012. Historical and contemporary DNA indicate fisher decline and isolation occurred prior to the European settlement of California
    Zielinski, William J.; Schlexer, Fredrick V.; Parks, Sean A.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2012. Small geographic range but not panmictic: how forests structure the endangered Point Arena mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa nigra)
    Magoun, Audrey J.; Long, Clinton D.; Schwartz, Michael K.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Lowell, Richard E.; Valkenburg, Patrick, 2011. Integrating motion-detection cameras and hair snags for wolverine identification
    Knaus, Brian J.; Cronn, Richard; Liston, Aaron; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2011. Mitochondrial genome sequences illuminate maternal lineages of conservation concern in a rare carnivore
    Brinkman, Todd J.; Person, David K.; Schwartz, Michael K.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Colson, Kevin E.; Hundertmark, Kris J., 2010. Individual identification of Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) using DNA from fecal pellets
    Brinkman, Todd J.; Schwartz, Michael K.; Person, David K.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Hundertmark, Kris J., 2009. Effects of time and rainfall on PCR success using DNA extracted from deer fecal pellets
    Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Zielinski, William J.; Mazurek, Mary J.; Schlexer, Frederick V.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2006. Development and characterization of microsatellite markers in the Point Arena mountain beaver Aplodontia rufa nigra
    Zielinski, William J.; Schlexer, Fredrick V.; Pilgrim, Kristine L.; Schwartz, Michael K., 2006. The efficacy of wire and glue hair snares in identifying mesocarnivores
    A suspected lynx has triggered this photo from a game camera in Montana (photo credit: Don Heffington).
    A new project showed that animal footprints in snow contain enough DNA for species identification, even when the snow was many months old. The study extracted DNA from snow samples collected within animal tracks as well as areas where the animal had been photographed months earlier. Newly developed genetic assays were applied and positively detected the DNA of each species, performing nearly flawlessly on samples previously considered too poor to provide usable DNA. This method could revolutionize winter surveys of rare species by greatly reducing or eliminating misidentifications and missed detections.
    Westslope cutthroat trout, native to the Columbia River and upper Missouri River hybridize with introduced rainbow trout and have been extirpated from large portions of their historical range.
    Hybridization between westslope cutthroat trout and both rainbow trout and Yellowstone cutthroat trout is a major conservation concern for the species.  A new broad-scale analysis of hybridization patterns found many pure populations of westslope cutthroat trout in headwaters streams.
    The Rocky Mountain Research Station and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center are collaborating on a study to improve early detection of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome (Pd) in bats by searching for  a virus. North American isolates of Pd are infected by a mycovirus, PdPV-pa. The goal of this project is to develop a sensitive assay and protocols to detect RNA from PdPV-pa, which may occur in much greater abundance than DNA from Pd in environmental samples.  
    The website provides: 1) A large list of supporting science behind eDNA sampling. 2) The recommended field protocol for eDNA sampling and the equipment loan program administered by the NGC. 3) A systematically-spaced sampling grid for all flowing waters of the U.S. in a downloadable format that includes unique database identifiers and geographic coordinates for all sampling sites. Available for download in an Geodatabase or available by ArcGIS Online map. This sampling grid can be used to determine your field collection sites to contribute. 4) The lab results of eDNA sampling at those sites where project partners have agreed to share data.

    National Strategic Program Areas: 
    Wildlife and Fish
    RMRS Science Program Areas: 
    Wildlife and Terrestrial Ecosystems