Katie Adkins, a student from Clemson University, participated in an ongoing study of infectious disease dynamics in urban bird populations, supervised by Drs. Sonia Hernandez and Michael Yabsley.
Many wildlife species benefit from novel resources – especially supplemental food – offered in human-altered habitats. Shifts in wildlife ecology in response to intentional or accidental feeding can dramatically alter infectious disease dynamics. If hosts aggregate near resources and interact with novel species, provisioning can increase contact rates and exposure to pathogens. Concentrated resources could also improve host immune defenses, and dietary changes might alter the host’s microbiome, with downstream effects on pathogen invasion. Depending on the strengths of these relationships, provisioning could cause some pathogens and parasites to increase and others to decline. The goal of the overarching project is to examine how host use of anthropogenic resources influences pathogen and parasite dynamics across organizational scales. Specifically, our research explores interactions between an enteric pathogen, Salmonella, and the American White Ibis in South Florida, a recently urbanized species, to understand how resource shifts in urban habitats alter host ecology and pathogen dynamics.