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Thesis Defence: Keeping Ahead of Chronic Wasting Disease: An Assessment of Trans-Boundary Cervid Movement in British Columbia
May 15 at 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Jacob Hubner, supervised by Dr. Adam Ford, will defend their thesis titled “Keeping Ahead of Chronic Wasting Disease: An Assessment of Trans-Boundary Cervid Movement in British Columbia” in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Biology.
An abstract for Jacobs’s thesis is included below.
Defence are open to all members of the campus community as well as the general public. Registration is not required for in-person defences.
Fatal and difficult to monitor, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) continues to spread throughout cervid populations in North America. British Columbia (BC) is one of the few remaining provinces/states without a confirmed CWD case; however, the disease has been detected less than 40 kilometers away from the BC border in both Montana and Alberta. Some of these cases are approaching the remnant herd ranges of BC’s endangered mountain caribou – a species that is also vulnerable to CWD infection. BC has a robust pre-emptive monitoring program, though it does not currently cover the full extent of the border with other infected areas. To improve detection of CWD-infected animals in BC and assess vulnerability to non-detection of infected animals, we developed connectivity models to identify areas where cervids are likely to cross the border. Using archived telemetry data for mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, and elk, we built summer and winter resource selection functions. Seasonal migration patterns were simulated using circuit theory-based connectivity analyses (Circuitscape and Omniscape). By simulating movement from CWD-positive locations towards British Columbia, key movement corridors with a higher probability were identified for use by infected cervids, as well as likely routes towards extant caribou populations. It was found that the current west end of the monitoring area (MU 4-07) has poor relative connectivity and extending the testing area further west may enhance CWD management in BC. In addition, several key corridors used by multiple species were identified, most within the Rocky Mountain range. Identifying these CWD ‘hotspot’ corridors can assist managers in more efficient testing or public education initiatives. The same telemetry data was also used to quantify how the probability of an infected animal entering BC may change with distance to the border. Considering both current prevalence and seasonal movement distances, it was found to be unlikely (< 1%) that an individual, infected animal will cross the border from a currently identified CWD-positive location during a single season. This analysis framework is flexible and can be used to reassess CWD risk as more data is collected, or model the spread of other cervid diseases.