Non invasive surveying of parasites in wild otter populations

Theme: Natural & Biological Hazards

Main Supervisor:

Aidan Emery

Life Sciences, NHM

Second Supervisor:

Anne Lockyer

Institute for the Environment, BRUNEL

Project Description:

Non-invasive methods developed for biomedical research will be adapted to monitoring parasites in UK otters, providing a targeted approach to answer questions about parasite transmission activity, range expansion and effect on host populations at a local level.

Focusing on the trematode parasite Pseudamphistomum truncatum, this project will sample parasite eggs from spraints and locate the first intermediate host (snail) to target current infections in live otters and transmission potential through the snail life-cycle stages. Collecting the accessible stages overcomes limitations of previous projects which relied on the chance availability of otter carcases where the adult parasite can be found in the gall-bladder.

The wealth of information available from otter surveys by local conservation groups coupled with molecular biological and population genetic tools provides the potential to resolve fine-scale through to regional transmission patterns.

Policy Impact of Research:

UK otter populations have recovered from near extinction, and it is important to avoid further crashes by understanding impacts of emerging diseases.

The wealth of available information makes this an ideal model system for applying new techniques for monitoring the emergence of wildlife parasites.


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