How does pneumonia spread across bighorn sheep populations?


Bighorn sheep. Photo credit: Kim Andrews


Bighorn sheep across western North America are threatened by infectious pneumonia caused by the bacteria Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae.  We’re using population genetics to understand how dispersal patterns of bighorn sheep influence disease transmission.  We’re also investigating whether maternal transmission plays a dominant role in the spread of the disease by using genetic maternity analyses to determine whether mortality is higher for lambs with infected mothers.






Why are Tasmanian devils recovering from cancer?


Tasmanian devil. Photo credit: Rodrigo Hamede

Tasmanian devils are experiencing severe population depletions due to the spread of a transmissible cancer (Devil Facial Tumor Disease) first detected in 1996.  However, one population in eastern Tasmania shows signs of recovery, and we want to know how and why it’s recovering. We are reconstructing a pedigree for this population using samples collected over the last 16 years to help us understand the mechanisms underlying population growth.  We’re also tracking changes in parts of the genome that previous studies indicate are involved in an adaptive response to cancer in this species.