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Grantee Research Project Results

NCER Grantee Research Project Results

The Effects of Toxins on Epidemic Disease in the Freshwater Grazer, Daphnia dentifera

EPA Grant Number: FP917126
Title: The Effects of Toxins on Epidemic Disease in the Freshwater Grazer, Daphnia dentifera
Investigators: Civitello, David James
Institution: Indiana University - Bloomington
EPA Project Officer: Cobbs-Green, Gladys M.
Project Period: September 1, 2010 through August 31, 2013
Project Amount: $111,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2010)
Research Category: Fellowship - Pesticides and Toxic Substances , Academic Fellowships

Description:

Objective:

Ecologists, natural area managers, and conservationists alike have become increasingly concerned that chemical contamination and disease outbreaks seem to be increasing in natural ecosystems. Are these linked? Could pollutants increase disease? If so, do pollutants and infectious disease jointly threaten the persistence of host populations?

Synopsis:

Ecologists have become increasingly concerned that chemical pollution and disease outbreaks seem to be increasing in natural ecosystems. Are these linked? Do pollutants increase disease? If so, do pollutants and infectious disease jointly threaten the persistence of host populations? This research aims to use experiments and theoretical models to identify general processes that underlie the combined effects of copper contamination and fungal disease on an aquatic invertebrate.

Approach:

I will study the effects of copper, a heavy metal, on the interaction between a freshwater invertebrate, Daphnia dentifera, and its fungal parasite, Metschnikowia bicuspidata. First, I will use short term experiments to determine how copper affects disease related traits. Next, I will utilize disease ecology models to predict how these trait changes will affect the size and severity of disease outbreaks. Finally, I will utilize long-term experiments to test these predictions. I will also construct a physiological model to investigate how copper affects these important individual-level disease traits and how other contaminants might affect epidemics and host population persistence.

Expected Results:

This research will characterize the effects that a common pollutant has on key disease related traits. These diverse effects will be integrated into disease ecology models to provide predictions for the size and severity of epidemics across different contamination scenarios. Testing these predictions will challenge these models and identify key processes that alter epidemics in contaminated habitats. Additionally, this research will determine if host genetic variation or variation in the supply rate or identity of the contaminant further modifies the effects of contamination on disease. Ultimately, this research can reveal key factors and processes that determine whether contamination exacerbates or alleviates disease in natural populations.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection:

This interdisciplinary research tackles a challenging environmental problem by creating a predictive, general framework that combines techniques and theory from toxicology, energetics, community ecology and evolutionary biology. Armed with this integrative theory, we will better understand how and when pollutants and disease jointly threaten host persistence in natural communities.

Supplemental Keywords:

copper, fungal disease, epidemic, disease outbreak, disease ecology, freshwater, invertebrate, population persistence, contamination, pollution,

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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