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Title: An Epidemiological Investigation of Erysipelothrix in Muskoxen: Combining Local Knowledge and Scientific Data in the Canadian Arctic
Authors: Sheppard, Olivia
Advisors: Dobson, Andrew
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Certificate Program: Global Health and Health Policy Program
Class Year: 2020
Abstract: Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) are large Arctic animals critically important to their ecosystems and the well-being of local Arctic communities. Although global populations are considered stable, several core populations have been showing signs of recent decline. Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae—a gram-positive bacterium prevalently diagnosed in domestic animals—has been associated with unusual mortality events in muskoxen in the Canadian Arctic. Emerging pathogens can be unpredictable and therefore monitoring and surveillance of wildlife populations are essential in the field of conservation. Obtaining this information is challenging when it comes to free-ranging animals in resource-limited habitats, such as the muskox. In an attempt to better understand the impacts of E. rhusiopathiae on muskoxen in the region of Iqaluktutiaq (Cambridge Bay) in the Canadian Arctic, this study combines local knowledge with scientific data and statistical modelling to reveal important demographic and epidemiological parameters. First, Using QGIS mapping software, the spatial distribution of muskoxen in the established study area was analyzed and revealed to show characteristics of clustering, yet not to the point of statistical significance. A population estimate for the study area was then produced using statistical modelling techniques revealing a total of 2963 animals. Following this step, the cumulative mortality was calculated using local knowledge on muskox mortalities from an outbreak in 2009-2014, resulting in an estimate of 2.8%-7.8%. Finally, the basic reproduction number was calculated in R programming using local knowledge on mortalities, revealing an R0 value of 2.8 in magnitude. These findings contribute to the literature aiming to better understand the impacts of E. rhusiopathiae on muskoxen. This study also highlights that local knowledge can be used to create a more comprehensive understanding of wildlife health and disease dynamics. There remain many unanswered questions that can only be addressed by further investigations into the impact of E. rhusiopathiae on muskoxen. I hope that this study succeeds in providing answers to some important epidemiological questions, as well as encourages future research and investigations.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 1992-2022
Global Health and Health Policy Program, 2017-2022

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