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Combating the Black Death: Mitigating Sylvatic Plague in the Western United States
Tuesday, October 24th, 7pm
Paleo Hall, CU Museum
The word plague is used to describe a multitude of biological events with negative consequences for humans. Speaking strictly, however, there is one plague–the zoonotic disease caused by Yersinia pestis, a flea-borne bacterium that infects mammal hosts, including humans. Plague is arguably best known for causing the Black Death in Europe, the greatest public health disaster in history. However, plague persists mostly in wildlife, and can infect mammals of at least 73 genera and more than 200 species globally. This presentation will summarize research on the ecology of plague in the western United States. Controlled experiments demonstrate that plague is causing chronic problems in populations of many mammals, including threatened and endangered species. Moreover, several lines of evidence suggest plague is disrupting ecosystem functions, for instance when the disease suppresses populations of keystone or foundation species. Case examples will be presented, and a proposal will be extended for a greater emphasis on the conservation ramifications of plague.
About the Speaker: David Eads is a post-doctoral researcher with Colorado State University and the U. S. Geological Survey in Fort Collins, Colorado. David has studied free-living mammals for 13 years, with an emphasis on grassland species. Themes have included aspects of behavioral ecology, predator-prey relationships, and the ecology of plague, with an underlying motivation for conservation of wildlife. David has worked with colleagues at field sites in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. Taxa of interest have included carnivores, rodents, lagomorphs, arthropods, and bacteria. His current research emphasis is on the chronic effects of plague on wildlife populations and ecosystems.
📷: Dave Eads