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Authors: DeCandia, Alexandra Lee
Advisors: vonHoldt, Bridgett M
Contributors: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department
Keywords: Canidae
conservation genetics
disease ecology
molecular ecology
Subjects: Genetics
Conservation biology
Animal diseases
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The role of molecular diversity in wildlife health and disease has intrigued ecologists for decades. Using traditional techniques, researchers have uncovered a link between host genetic diversity and disease, with variation thought to buffer against risk. However, recent studies suggest that additional sources of diversity – such as genome-wide variation, gene regulatory differences, and commensal microbial communities – may also provide critical insights into individual-level health and population-level viability. In this dissertation, I argue for a more inclusive understanding of molecular diversity within ecology and evolutionary biology. In Chapter One, I summarize literature along the intersection of molecular ecology, disease ecology, and wildlife conservation to highlight the utility of diverse molecular techniques. In subsequent chapters, I apply multiple approaches to address questions within population genetics and wildlife disease ecology. In Chapters Two and Three, I examine the genetic effects of urban colonization to consider host genetic changes within altered disease landscapes. Across two focal systems, I observed reduced variation in urban areas following founder events, with preliminary evidence of urban adaptation. In Chapters Four and Five, I characterized changes in the host-associated microbiome associated with ectoparasitic mite infection to elucidate novel drivers of disease pathology. Across four host species, I observed remarkably consistent signatures of microbial dysbiosis, including reduced species richness and increased abundance of potentially pathogenic species. Although each chapter addresses a different question in a different focal system, this dissertation highlights the utility of adopting an inclusive understanding of molecular variation within ecology and evolutionary biology, in the hope that future studies will do the same.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

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