PhD Candidate, University of California – Davis
Research: Pathogen transmission between wild and domestic ungulates in central Kenya
Abstract: Although disease is an increasingly recognized conservation concern, there is little known about the frequency and routes of interspecific transmission because it is difficult to assess who transmitted to whom. Here, transmission is inferred if individual animals host genetically similar Escherichia coli, which we use as a proxy for pathogen transmission. Using inferred transmission of E. coli, we will examine patterns of pathogen transmission between wildlife and livestock in Kenya. Our research quantifies the extent of interspecific transmission between livestock and wildlife, identifies species that are disproportionately involved in transmission, and develops a methodology for designing targeted vaccination strategies that control disease outbreaks. Of the nine species included in this study, the results will be especially relevant for the critically endangered black rhinoceros and Grevy's zebra. The methods developed here are novel, broadly applicable, and improve our ability to predict the impacts of disease.