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Snake-Hosted Parasite Ecology Research by Rhodes Team To Be Published in Urban Ecosystems

Publication Date: 4/17/2012

A manuscript authored by Rhodes team Adiha Khan ’13, Matt Grisham ’13, Anna J. Gay ’13, and¬†Professors Jon Davis, Sarah Boyle, and Luque de Johnson has been accepted for publication by the journal of Urban Ecosystems. The article ¬†is “Snake Parasitism in an Urban Old Forest Park,” and examines how urbanization can influence parasitism and disease transmission in wildlife.

Field ecology, microscopy, molecular techniques, and geographic information science (GIS) were integrated to characterize parasitism of snakes in an urban old-growth forest park. The species, sex, mass, length, location, and prevalence of ecto-, hemo-, and fecal parasites were determined for 34 snakes of 6 species. The researchers found that nearly 65 % of snakes were infected by a parasite. The locations of infected snakes were used to produce risk maps indicating where parasite prevalence is predicted to be greatest. The study provides an integrative multidisciplinary approach that may be used to monitor parasitism dynamics in other urban wildlife areas.

The lab group conducted the research as part of a Rhodes Fellowship called “Integrative Research Training in Biological Sub-Disciplines.” The fellowship provides the students hands-on experiences that augment courses in field ecology, molecular biology, microbiology, parasitology, and GIS.

In addition to being presented at Rhodes’ annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium (URCAS), the group’s research has been presented at the MidSouth GIS Conference in Germantown, Tenn., the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology condeference in Salt Lake City, Utah, and The American Society of Parasitologists annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska.

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