PARASITE SAFARI: USING CITIZEN SCIENCE TO UNDERSTAND HERBIVORE PARASITE EXPOSURE RISK AT EAST AFRICAN WATERING HOLES.
Georgia C. Titcomb; University of California, Santa Barbara; 1117 Noble Hall, Santa Barbara, CA, 93106; (919) 914-3989; georgiatitcomb@gmail.com; Jenna Hulke, Amanda Orens, John N. Mantas, Benard C. Gituku, Hillary S. Young
Water is a critical resource for a rich diversity of herbivores. However, herbivore aggregation at water sources can increase exposure to both fecal-oral parasites (e.g. parasitic nematodes) and directly-transmitted pathogens (e.g. viruses, bacteria). In arid climates where water is a limiting resource, watering holes can enable parasite survival in the environment and drive higher aggregation rates that promote pathogen spread. Furthermore, increased interspecific contact may also facilitate rapidly-adaptive and virulent pathogens. Our work at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Central Kenya uses experimental water manipulation to study herbivore water use and parasite exposure risk. Using five sets of filled and manipulated (drained and refilled) water pans plus controls, we examine herbivore responses to water manipulation over two full years of camera trapping. Nearly 3,000 citizen science volunteers are assisting us in answering two specific questions from these photos: 1) For which herbivore species does water cause increased aggregation and parasite exposure risk? 2) Are interspecific contact rates increased in the presence of water? We report on our preliminary results of this work, and we anticipate that our findings will provide key insights into the relationship between water, parasites, and hosts in an important hotspot of mammal diversity and conservation activity.
Ecology and Conservation of Mammals III   Student Paper