The University of Georgia rolled out ambitious plans to improve water quality and recreational access at Lake Herrick, a beautiful green space on campus, but how will increased use by people influence the wildlife that calls it home? Following a letter detailing potential impacts on the site’s birdlife co-signed by UGA faculty, the National Audubon Society’s chapters in Athens and Atlanta, Richard worked with Ecology seniors in an Environmental Practicum class, and met incoming graduate students in the interdisciplinary GS-LEAD program, to discuss potential solutions. These meetings resulted in a report shared with the Office of Sustainability featuring recommendations and site improvements to minimize human-wildlife conflicts, including keeping some areas of the lake disturbance free, replacing perching and nesting structures used by swallows and waterbirds in the lake, and initiating discussions between the Oconee Forest Park and State Botanical Garden to develop a native planting plan around the stormwater pond.
Human activities such as farming, refuse disposal and backyard bird feeding provide reliable sources of food for wildlife, which in turn can create conditions conducive to local parasite transmission. A new paper, just published in The American Naturalist, uses mathematical models to understand how food provisioning influences dispersal of wildlife hosts and their pathogens across the landscape. In general, more food-provisioned patches means more infected sub-populations; however, if provisioned patches produce fewer dispersers (e.g. if easy access to food promotes site fidelity), widespread provisioning across the landscape can reduce infection spread. This work, led by former UGA PhD student Dan Becker, resulted from Celine Snedden’s summer research project in the Population Biology of Infectious Diseases REU, and was co-authored by Richard Hall and Sonia Altizer.
We’re delighted to welcome some new faces to the Hall Lab. Two new graduate students, Izzy Ragonese and Megan Tomamichel, join existing grad students Cali Wilson and Claire Teitelbaum, to work on cross-scale problems in infectious disease ecology. Rising sophomore Nathaniel Haulk is pursuing undergraduate research in the lab. Welcome and best of luck with the new semester!
Lab members Claire Teitelbaum and Richard Hall presented research at the Ecological Society of America 2018 meeting in New Orleans. Claire presented her study of linkages between animal movement and infection in the ungulates, which was recently published in Proceedings B. Richard presented some preliminary new work modeling the coupled dynamics of wildlife feeding and infection. Additionally, collaborator Ania Majewska presented her findings of drivers of high infection prevalence in sedentary monarchs, and we had our first PI meeting (and accompanying field trip) on our new project investigating the drivers and consequences of migration loss in monarchs. It was a pleasure to run into many old friends and colleagues, including Hall lab alumna Javiera Rudolph, who did her undergraduate research at UGA in 2013 and is now close to completing her dissertation at the university of Florida!
Congratulations to Chastity Ward for successfully completing her summer research in UGA’s Population Biology of Infectious Diseases REU. Chastity conducted observations of monarchs visiting their milkweed host plants in outdoor flight cages to
quantify environmental transmission rates of their protozoan parasite OE. Excitingly, she discovered substantial variation among monarchs in their visitation rates, which may point to the existence of superspreader individuals. As well as presenting her research at the UGA REU symposium, Chastity will present at an upcoming biomedical research conference, and her ambitious summer project has spawned a follow-up experiment! We’ll miss having her around!
Congratulations to lab member Claire Teitelbaum on a new publication in Conservation Letters on Whooping Cranes. She found that irrespective of how birds were trained to migrate in early life, their behavior converged over the years, with implications for the success of reintroductions in species that continue to learn new behaviors over their lifetime. Read more about this work here.
We’re excited to welcome new IDEAS PhD student Cali Wilson to the Hall Lab! Cali is interested in behavioral and community components of parasite transmission in wildlife, using urban-habituated White Ibis. Cali has already been out in the field recording ibis behavior in Georgia and Florida, and captured this great shot documenting just how bold these waterbirds have become.
Richard was part of a review article just published in Integrative and Comparative Biology, headed by U. South Florida graduate student Meredith Kernbach, that illustrates how artificial light at night can influence individual host traits in ways that alter their competence for infectious diseases, including vector-borne zoonoses like West Nile Virus. Read all about it here.
The Hall Lab is excited to be part of a new National Science Foundation Population and Community Ecology grant to investigate the drivers and consequences of sedentary behavior in formerly migratory animals, using the iconic monarch butterfly as a study system. Our research team is headed by PI Sonia Altizer, along with co-PIs Richard Hall, Caz Taylor at Tulane University, Jaap de Roode at Emory, and Karen Oberhauser at U. Wisconsin. A brief synopsis of the grant can be found on the NSF website.
Congratulations to Claire Teitelbaum on the publication of her first dissertation chapter! The research, published in Proceedings B, and co-authored by Shan Huang, Richard Hall and Sonia Altizer, uses macroecological analyses to investigate how parasite richness and average prevalence varies across ungulate species according to their movement strategies (migratory, nomadic or range resident). Surprisingly, we found that migrants on average harboured more parasites than nomads or residents, and this was not explained by differences in the diversity of habitats encountered. Instead, we propose that the differences arise because migrants track environmental conditions favourable for parasite transmission and survival, while nomads and residents typically experience harsher environmental conditions during their annual cycles.