"Cumulative Effects Framework for Wildlife Herd Health"
The purpose of this project is to develop a means by which to evaluate wildlife health that acknowledges the complexity of health and its relationship with the environment and other external factors. The current study and understanding of health in wildlife tends to be disease-centric, often neglecting the complexity of health and the disparity between "not being sick" and "being healthy". By introducing cumulative effects concepts into the evaluation of health in free-ranging species and borrowing ideas from human population health and ecosystem biology, we hope to identify unique and useful determinants of population health in wildlife. This endeavor should provide managers, decision makers, and researchers with useful tools for wildlife health surveillance.
"Vancouver Rat Project"
For my doctoral research I am working with the Vancouver Rat Project to answer two broad questions that deal with rats and the diseases they carry. One of the major findings from the Vancouver Rat Project is that diseases carried by rats are unevenly distributed across city blocks. This means that some blocks have many infected rats while others have none. One hypothesis we have for this distribution is that rat social structure (colony formation) and movement (small home ranges with minimal movement between blocks) results in little disease transmission between blocks. My first research question is: How does rat movement and social structure influence disease transmission in rats from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside? To answer this question I will be using rat genetic data to construct family trees, which will help to identify related rats and those that have migrated.
Rats are capable of transmitting a number of pathogens to people. Additionally, their fleas may transmit pathogens among rats and from rats to people. The Vancouver Rat Project found that approximately 1/3 of rats in the Downtown Eastside had fleas. My second research question is: Do these rat fleas carry bacteria which are a risk to human health? To answer this question I will be sequencing the bacterial communities associated with rat fleas and identifying both known and novel bacteria. This information will add to what is known about microbes carried by rats in the Downtown Eastside and will further help to inform rat control programs.
"Could rats pose a health risk for people living in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside? Understanding the ecology of Toxoplasma gondii in wild Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus) from an inner-city neighborhood"
The project will involve a further investigation of preliminary results found through the CWHC-sponsored Vancouver Rat Project, where 25% of wild urban Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) had serological evidence of exposure to the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. T. gondii is a ubiquitous zoonotic parasite (meaning it can be transmitted between animals and people), with the potential to cause debilitating life-long health consequences in humans. However, as there is scant information available on the molecular ecology, epidemiology, or public health significance of this parasite in urban rats, this project will focus on the ecology and potential public health risk of T. gondii in wild urban Norway rats in Vancouver's downtown eastside (DTES) neighbourhood.
"Wildlife health internship at Alberta node of CWHC"
The Intern is taking this opportunity to learn diagnostic skills in anatomic and histopathology, parasitology and microbiology with a focus on the wildlife of Alberta. She is immersed into the daily activities of the Alberta node of the CWHC. This internship is providing her with training in scientific research and writing that help her write case report in peer- reviewed journals. The Intern is also gaining wildlife health management experience by working in partnership with stakeholders and doing short duration wildlife health projects that culminate in a report to the partner.
"Description of a new lungworm species in Arctic ungulates"
Gui's research involves the description of a new lungworm species in caribou, muskoxen and moose combining classical systematics and phylogenetic and molecular approaches. The new species' life-cycle, and geographic and host distribution throughout Canada and Alaska are also being investigated. This research will define the biodiversity of lungworm species in barren ground and woodland caribou, their potential impacts on hosts, and implications for management and conservation.
"Emerging infectious disease in Arctic wildlife"
Since 2010 Victoria and Banks Islands in the Canadian Archipelago have seen midsummer mortality events in muskoxen. Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, a zoonotic bacterium, was cultured from carcasses and is considered to be the cause of death for these animals. Alarmingly, this is the first report of Erysipelothrix in the Arctic. This project will investigate Erysipelothrix in the Arctic using molecular techniques that hopes to shed light on possible disease reservoirs as well as the temporal and spatial spread of the disease in muskoxen. Understanding the sources of infection and how the disease is spreading will be important for identifying potential management options for maintaining healthy muskox populations.
"Distribution and abundance of gastropod intermediate hosts for two emerging protostrongylid parasites in the Arctic"
Two lung-dwelling protostrongylid nematodes, Varestrongylus sp. and Umingmakstrongylus pallikuukensis, were recently discovered in muskoxen on Victoria Island, Nunavut. These parasites have indirect lifecycles requiring gastropod intermediate hosts for development and transmission. Thus, research on the diversity, distribution and abundance of terrestrial gastropods is critical for predicting regions of future parasite establishment and to better understand their transmission dynamics. To determine the distribution and abundance of gastropod intermediate hosts we are systematically surveying both intensively near Cambridge Bay and extensively along a latitudinal gradient spanning the island. Along with this, we will also be creating a long-term gastropod monitoring project near Cambridge Bay in association with the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS).
"Evaluation of health status of declining boreal caribou herds in the Northeastern British Columbia"
Bryan's research is focused on understanding the cumulative effects of anthropogenic and environmental conditions on large mammal health and mechanisms through which these factors may lead to diminished population performance in species at risk. Bryan is currently working with the Government of British Columbia and the CWHC to evaluate the health status of declining boreal caribou herds in the province's northeast.
"Wild birds as sentinels for the health effects of air pollution around Calgary"
The health effects of ambient air pollution are difficult to confirm, as they generally occur after chronic exposure, are non-specific, and the causal compounds typically leave no measurable residues in the tissues. This project seeks to complement existing medical epidemiological studies by identifying physiological biomarkers in free-living wild birds that are exposed to the same air pollution as urban residents in Calgary. Indicators of immune function, chronic stress, oxidative stress and liver detoxification effort, among others, are analyzed in nestlings of wild birds naturally inhabiting different areas in the city in which we are measuring air levels of the pollutants of concern. The information generated will provide additional tools for environmental monitoring and decision-making.
"Terrestrial mammals as bio sentinels of health effects from oil and gas related contaminants in northern Alberta"
This research entails an experimental and field-based research approach designed to evaluate how polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals (both common pollutants associated with oil sands-related activities) affect the health of local wildlife in northern Alberta. We use herbivorous small mammals as sentinel species and investigate several sensitive biomarkers for exposure to the contaminants and subclinical, toxicological effects.
“Monitoring and managing the impact of industrial development on disease and stress in caribou and moose”
The Sahtu Settlement Area, Northwest Territories, is currently experiencing unprecedented landscape changes associated with increasing exploration and development of shale oil reserves. Community members in this region have voiced their concerns about the health and sustainability of wildlife and how rapid environmental change may affect them. In this project we use a community-based approach, working together with subsistence hunters in the Sahtu to establish a comprehensive baseline dataset of health indices of caribou and moose. Specifically this project aims to evaluate the use of glucocorticoids as biomarkers of overall health in caribou and moose. We further hope to gain an enhanced understanding of how disturbance, stress and infectious disease may interact to influence wildlife health and to promote sustainable long-term hunter-based monitoring of impacts of development on wildlife health.
“Climate change and muskox lungworms: Tracking and predicting distribution and range expansion in the Canadian Arctic”
During a relatively short history, these two protostrongylid nematodes, previously limited to Canadian mainland, have emerged and substantially expanded their range in the Arctic Archipelago. Detected for the first time between 2008 and 2010 in southern parts of Victoria Island, findings from field surveys indicate that there has been a significant increase in prevalence, infection intensity and geographical range across the island since their emergence in Victoria Island. With climate warming occurring at unprecedented rate, more intensely in the arctic region, and the influence of temperature on parasite development already established, warming climate of the arctic can be considered as one of the important driving factors. My project aims to establish and track the current distribution limit and determine the potential range of these lungworms under past, present and future climatic conditions.
Oscar Alejandro Aleuy Young
“Refining and testing predictive models for host-parasite interactions in a changing climate: the case of Marshallagia marshalli and its latitudinal plasticity in thermal tolerance”
Alejandro’s project aims to contribute to the knowledge of climate change impacts on host-parasite interactions, and to develop and refine predictive models based on metabolic theory of ecology. He will be focused on evaluating the impact of Marshallagia marshalli in fitness indicators in Dall’s and bighorn sheep, comparing also the key life history characteristics of M. marshalli across a latitudinal gradient.
María Fernanda Mejía-Salazar, MVZ
"Social relationships and use of environmental sites as factors to better understand chronic wasting disease transmission dynamics among free ranging mule deer in Saskatchewan".
By doing direct observations on free-ranging mule deer, we are exploring the factors that affect the structure of mule deer society and their contact rates throughout the year. Also, by deploying a system of triggered-by-movement cameras at different environmental site types, we are investigating their patterns of visitation as a proxy for environmental prion contamination. We want to integrate this knowledge with disease dynamics to gain a better understanding of chronic wasting disease transmission in wild populations.
"A Survey of Disease in the Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) of Coastal British Columbia"
By the early 19th century the fur trade had driven sea otters to the brink of extinction. Populations along the coast of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon were virtually wiped out. During the 1960's a small group of otters was reintroduced from Alaska to the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Since then the population has been recovering. However, the health status of the population is largely unknown. Given that populations in Alaska and California are currently experiencing unusually high mortality rates, there is great concern for the health of Canada's populations especially in the light of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline which would increase tanker traffic along the coast of British Columbia. In this study we will compile and analyze the data collected from necropsy submissions, spanning a period of 15 years, in order to establish a baseline for the health status of BC's otter populations while inferring geospatial relationships. In doing so, we hope to gain a better understanding of current and future health risks so that we may devise a more effective management strategy.
"Health surveillance and Aleutian Mink Disease prevalence in free-ranging mustelids of British Columbia"
Fur farming in British Columbia is an agricultural industry that is currently expanding. The predominant animals farmed for fur in BC are mink, which are susceptible to a number of different pathogens. Some of these pathogens are transferrable to a number of wild and free-ranging animals. The pathogen of interest in the current study is Aleutian Mink Disease Virus (AMDV), which has been found in other regions of North America in a number of wild mammals, including river otters, skunks and weasels. The primary goal of the study is to obtain samples from a number of free-ranging mustelids (weasels, fishers, badgers, etc.) in BC and to perform PCR targeting the AMDV genome to determine the prevalence of this virus in these species. Additionally, a secondary goal is to look for other pathology and signs of disease in these animals, so that the obtained samples can be utilized as comprehensively as possible.
"Investigating the Ecology of Coxiella burnetii at the Livestock-Wildlife Interface"
The goal of this project is to determine the role of wildlife in the transmission of Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever. While the main source of human infection is inhaling the bacteria shed by small ruminants, we know from a recent study conducted in Ontario that wildlife are also affected by C. burnetii, however, their epidemiological role has not yet been identified. This past summer we sampled a total of 853 animals from 16 Ontario dairy goat farms and 14 nearby natural areas. By extracting the DNAfrom milk, fecal and genital samples, we aim to identify the bacterial strain types of C. burnetii found within these samples. Comparing the DNA will help us to detect the similarities and differences among the strain types infecting livestock and wildlife. It is important to understand the role of wildlife in the transmission of this disease, so we may better suggest management strategies to preserve animal and human health.
"Epidemiology of Ixodes scapularis and Borrelia burgdorferi in pet dogs living in an emerging Lyme disease area in Ontario."
By using pet dogs as sentinel species for tick collection, we will be working with 15 veterinary practices in southeastern Ontario to conduct a space-time analysis on how the rate of tick removal varies by season and practice location.Through the use of a questionnaire, this study will provide fundamental epidemiological information to better understand the impact of geographical- and animal-level characteristics on the carriage of Ixodes scapularis and Borrelia burgdorferi in pet dogs.As the geographical range of this vector expands in Ontario, veterinarians require information to make evidence based decisions regarding tick control and Lyme disease exposure in their patients.
"Molecular and statistical analysis of Campylobacter and antimicrobial resistant Campylobacter carriage in mammalian wildlife and livestock species from Ontario farms (2010)"
Our studies aim to assess risk factors for carriage of Campylobacter and antimicrobial resistant (AMR) Campylobacter among livestock and mammalian wildlife on farms in Ontario, and to determine if Campylobacter subtypes are readily exchanged between wildlife and livestock based on molecular subtyping results. Using dendrogram analysis we hope to explore if the molecular subtypes circulating in wildlife and livestock populations are markedly different from each other and if either possess any relationship to strains isolated from human infection.
Thesis: "Understanding the influence of abiotic and biotic factors in Lyme disease ecology to predict the future distribution of endemic risk areas in Ontario"
By conducting active tick surveillance and collecting ecological site data at over 100 sites in 3 ecoregions in Ontario, we hope to gain an understanding of which ecological factors play a role in the spread and establishment of a blacklegged tick population and endemic cycles of B. burgdorferi. This knowledge will aid in public health risk assessment and targeted preventative public health measures to help decrease the incidence of human Lyme disease.
"The impact of host and environmental factors on the distribution of zoonotic pathogens in wild rats from Vancouver, Canada"
Rats live in cities around the world, often in very close proximity to people. They carry several zoonotic pathogens (infectious agents that can be transmitted from rats to people). We are taking a detailed look at individual rats, including all of their various rat-specific diseases such as heart disease to determine if these have an impact on whether or not they carry zoonotic pathogens. Also, we will determine features of the urban environment that are associated with rats that carry zoonotic pathogens. This research will contribute to a growing effort to understand urban rats and the potential risks they pose to human health.
"Role of raccoons in the maintenance and dissemination of Salmonella, generic E. coli and associated antimicrobial resistance on swine farms and conservation areas in southern Ontario."
Using a multi-year repeated cross-sectional study, we investigated the demographic and environmental factors associated with the carriage of Salmonella and resistant bacteria (i.e., generic E. coli) in wild-caught raccoons and their environment on swine farms and conservation areas in southern Ontario. The data obtained from my study will add to our knowledge of the pathways that allow for the dissemination of antimicrobial resistance in rural environments which will contribute to the development of effective control strategies for the reduction of antimicrobial resistance in the food chain in Ontario.
"Strengthening Ontario’s capacity to monitor wildlife health through understanding the wildlife health network and identifying key health monitoring factors"
We are using a survey given to Ontario wildlife health professionals to construct a model of the Ontario wildlife health network and outline the movement of health data through it. We are also gathering professionals from different aspects of the network to create a definition of wildlife health and identify key factors that can be used to monitor wildlife health. Together, this research will help us have a better understanding of the communication that happens in the Ontario wildlife health network as well as factors that can be used to create proactive health management strategies for wildlife conservation.
"Investigating enteric coccidiosis in the endangered black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes)"Black-footed ferrets (BFF) are the only native North American ferret species and the most endangered North American carnivore. Since 1986, a multi-institutional effort, including the Toronto Zoo, has bred BFF in captivity with successful reintroduction into the wild in Canada, the USA and Mexico. Enteric coccidiosis is endemic in breeding colonies and a major cause of death in young ferrets. Little is known about this disease in BFF and research is necessary to describe shedding patterns of oocysts during infection, and to better target treatment and prevention methods to improve ex-situ and in-situ management. This project consists of a) describing the shedding patterns of coccidial species in naturally infected BFF at the Toronto Zoo; b) molecular characterization of the coccidia isolated from BFF at the zoo. These are the preliminary steps in a larger project intended to evaluate current and novel methods of coccidial treatment for use in BFF, and investigate the production of an anti-coccidial vaccine.
"Health assessment to determine disease prevalence in wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in Ontario"
A health assessment will be performed to determine the prevalence and distribution of disease in Ontario Wild Turkeys. Using samples acquired from hunter-harvested turkeys, testing will be targeted toward pathogens previously identified through turkey necropsies performed at the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, including: salmonella, e. coli, mycoplasmosis, histomoniasis, avian pox, avian cholera, aspergillosis, avian influenza, erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae and reticuloendotheliosis virus; and also lymphoproliferative disease virus. This study aims to establish baseline data that can be used in monitoring, conservation and management strategies to help maintain a healthy and sustainable wild turkey population in Ontario.
"A 20-year retrospective study of toxicoses in free-ranging wildlife in Canada"
The present study will provide a 20-year retrospective review of cases of toxicity diagnosed in wildlife as well as a prospective assessment of levels of select metals and other toxins in free-ranging waterfowl. The retrospective assessment will allow us to determine seasonal, temporal, geographic, and taxonomic trends among wildlife diagnosed with toxicoses across Canada. The evaluation of wildlife species will help assess overall risks to wildlife, human and environmental health by toxic contaminants.
Information will be added soon.
"Body condition of Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) carcasses"
This project involved the determination of indices of body condition in stranded beluga using various morphological parameters.
"Lungworm infection in Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) from the St. Lawrence Estuary (Quebec, Canada)"
The goal of this project is to characterise the infection by two lungworms, Stenurus arctomarinus and Halocercus monoceris in Beluga found stranded in the St. Lawrence Estuary. Verminous pneumonia (infection of the lung by nematode worms) is a common cause of mortality in Beluga whales from this population. This condition represents the most common cause of mortality in weaned juvenile beluga and is therefore considered to have a potential impact on the recovery of this endangered population of whales. This project is realised in collaboration with Lena Measures from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Emilie L. Couture
Research Project: To be determined.
"Levels of lead contamination of Eagles"
The goal of this project is to evaluate the prevalence, intensity, geographical and temporal variations of lead contamination in Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). It is hypothesized that the primary source of this contamination is fragments of lead bullets present in viscera from cervids harvested by recreational hunters. The CWHC – Quebec collaborates on this project directed by Guy Fitzgerald (Université de Montréal) and the Union québécoise de réhabilitation des oiseaux de proie.
"Pathogenesis of Frog Virus 3 (Ranavirus sp) in wood frogs, Rana sylvatica"
Wood frogs are one of the most widespread species of the so-called true frogs in North America, ranging from the boreal forest (farther north than any other amphibian species), across all Canadian provinces and dipping into the east and southeastern United States. As have other amphibians, wild wood frog populations have suffered fatal outbreaks of infection with Ranavirus sp, a virus that only affects cold-blooded vertebrates. Frog Virus 3 (FV3), a species of Ranavirus, is often found in episodes of massive mortality in wild amphibians, reptiles and fish, and it thus the focus of this research project. The overall objective is to establish how FV3 affects wood frogs, with the hope that the information will help elucidate the ecology of this devastating disease.
"Characterization of orthoreovirus isolated from incidents of wild bird mortality in eastern Canada"