**PhD Seminar** Factors affecting the abundance and dispersion of fleas in prairie dog colonies: implications for transmission and persistence of Yersinia pestis

Plague is a rodent-associated zoonosis caused by the primarily flea-borne bacterium Yersinia pestis.  Over half the rodent species of conservation concern in the United States occur within the range of plague.  Protection of many of those species may rely on effective management of this invasive disease.  Rates of plague transmission are thought to positively correlate with flea abundance, suggesting utility in studying factors that affect the abundance and dispersion of fleas.  In this presentation, I describe research on fleas in colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) during 2010-2012 in New Mexico.  In general, our results demonstrate that the abundance of adult fleas may vary depending on edaphic factors (soil texture and moisture), the ages of prairie dog colonies, and weather variables (unexpectedly, fleas were most abundant during 2011, the driest spring-summer on record for New Mexico).  Plague poses an important challenge to conservationists, but we must attempt to gain a more complete understanding of its effects on ecosystems and develop tools for its control.  Our research could be considered when distributing insecticides or vaccines in colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs, including colonies occupied by endangered black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes). 

Speaker: David Eads

Speaker Institution: Department of Biology, Colorado State University

Speaker Website: http://sites.biology.colostate.edu/eads_plague/index.html

Event Date: 10-22-2014

Event Start Time: 4:00 PM

Event Location: Yates 206

Mixer Time: 3:30 PM

Mixer Location: Anatomy/Zoology lobby