EID: Collaborative Research: Invasion and Infection: Translocation and Transmission: An Experimental Study with Mycoplasma in Desert Tortoises

  • Hudson, Peter John (PI)
  • Tracy, C. Richard C.R. (CoPI)
  • Bansal, Shweta (CoPI)
  • Nussear, Kenneth E. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Solar panel development in the Western Mojave has resulted in a large number of threatened Desert Tortoises being moved from one location to another. Studies have shown that this species has become threatened through habitat loss and pneumonia infections and the translocation of tortoises will exacerbate disease risk. This project will examine the effects of social network structure on disease transmission dynamics using desert tortoises as a model system. The project will use a non-fatal mycoplasm infection and controlled introductions to follow disease spread in a system where the movements and interactions of all individuals can be tracked. The investigators will examine when translocation disrupts contact patterns and increases likelihood of an outbreak. Specifically they will undertake detailed experiments at both small and large scales and link these with probabilistic network models.

A fundamental part of this project is to identify a relationship between population structure, contact patterns and disease spread that can be used more generally to predict the likelihood of disease outbreaks. One outcome will be a management tool that can be used to assess risk of disease outbreaks in relation to tortoise translocation. More generally the researchers seek to examine the relationships between contact patterns and disease risk in other types of populations, including human and livestock. In this respect this study will be of great importance in understanding how emerging infections invade naïve populations.

Effective start/end date9/1/128/31/18


  • National Science Foundation: $2,303,899.00


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