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Anthropogenic Disturbance and Land Use: Impact on Freshwater Parasite SystemsEPA Grant Number: U915734
Title: Anthropogenic Disturbance and Land Use: Impact on Freshwater Parasite Systems
Investigators: McKenzie, Valerie J.
Institution: University of Connecticut
EPA Project Officer: Jones, Brandon
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2000) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Aquatic Ecology and Ecosystems , Aquatic Ecosystems
The objective of this research project is to study anthropogenic disturbances to the environment and their effect on parasites and pathogens in wildlife. Parasites are complex and interesting biologically, yet their role in natural ecosystems remains largely unexplored for most animals. The modern world is increasingly altered by human activities that perturbate the surrounding environment (i.e., pollution, watershed alteration, introduced species, etc.). Many of these disturbances confer shifts in parasite abundances of host animals, yet the causal mechanisms are not understood.
The research I have begun in Costa Rica investigates whether the parasite burdens are different depending on the habitat quality that the hosts inhabit. I will parameterize and test a model for the relationship between eutrophication, algae production, and host densities. This model will be applicable to many host-parasite systems. I will address these topics in three parts. Part I will develop a descriptive ecology of the parasites of three species of Costa Rican amphibians. Part II will compare the parasite communities of each of the three species across the disturbance gradient defined by rainforest and clear-cut pasture areas. Part III will consider eutrophication and develop a model to create a predictive framework striving to evaluate conditions that increase the impact of trematode parasites on vertebrate hosts.