Noninvasive Wildlife Health Monitoring Using Molecular Detection of Fecal Pathogens

EPA Grant Number: FP916352
Title: Noninvasive Wildlife Health Monitoring Using Molecular Detection of Fecal Pathogens
Investigators: Acton, Anne E.
Institution: North Carolina State University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2006
Project Amount: $87,468
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Terrestrial Ecology and Ecosystems , Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


The objectives of this project are to develop and test fecal molecular assays as effective noninvasive health monitoring tools in wildlife communities. The assays will be applied to field-collected feces of sympatric carnivores to detect active shedding of important broad host pathogens that presumably persist in the study region. Spatial data analysis will be employed to help elucidate regional disease exposure risks using GIS technology.


Independent assays using standard PCR and RT-PCR techniques that target conserved regions of the feline parvovirus family and canine distemper virus genomes, respectively, are being developed using feces spiked with virus. Assay specificities will be confirmed by sequencing amplification products, and assay sensitivities will be determined under a variety of environmental conditions. Vaccine-induced viral shedding in research animals will simulate true infections to study the duration of fecal detection by the assays. Because certain prey species may increase the disease exposure risk to carnivores, independent standard PCR assays designed to detect selected consumed prey in carnivore feces also are being developed and tested in food trials. Field validation of these assays will occur in eastern North Carolina where tissue, blood, and fecal samples from hunter-killed carnivores including black bear, coyote, red and gray fox, bobcat, and raccoon will be collected over two trapping seasons. Disease exposure status and active fecal shedding results will be mapped for each species and analyzed for distribution patterns associated with the landscape.

Prevalence rates determined by molecular analysis of stool samples are expected to be lower than those established by serosurveys for antibodies to the disease They offer the potential, however, to obtain relevant information on disease movement through an area. Spatial linkage to physical and habitat variations will depend on the resolution of environmental GIS data sets but is expected to yield insight into habitat/disease interactions on a gross scale.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, noninvasive health monitoring, predator-prey interaction, parvovirus, canine distemper virus, disease ecology, fecal molecular diagnostics, GIS,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Monitoring/Modeling, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, nonivasive wildlife heath monitoring, assays, carnivores, field monitoring, wildlife populations, fecal pathogens, GIS

Relevant Websites:

2004 STAR Graduate Fellowship Conference Poster (PDF, 1p., 127KB, about PDF)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2004
  • 2005
  • Final