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Thread: Disease Ecology in relation to invasive spp

  1. #1 Disease Ecology in relation to invasive spp 
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    Hey guys, I'm new here. I'm currently trying to figure out a research project for this summer to complete an undergrad "thesis". My main focus is on FW Ecology, specifically with invertebrates and parasites. I'm applying to Dartmouth in the Fall to work on a project that is focused primarily on disease ecology of FW habitats so I want to incorporate some disease ecology into my research this summer.

    My faculty mentor wants it to be on something fairly simple and easy to obtain since it's only for 3 months and immediately we thought of Zebra Mussels since they are everywhere. I guess I'm trying to get some background information now. We want to look at whether the spread of invasive spp has any effect on the spread of disease in the native spp.

    It is practically impossible to get in touch with anyone at the refuge we'll be using as our control for information so I figured I would come here.

    Thanks in advance for any info or advice!


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  3. #2  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Have you tried doing any literature searches on the history of zebra mussel invasion? That's probably a good place to start.

    I have to admit I'm a little surprised that it's "impossible" to get ahold of anyone at your proposed study site. How do you even know you'll be able to work there if you can't get in contact with anyone? Many state-owned refuges, especially ones where research is ongoing, have dedicated websites. You might try looking for one.


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    Well, for starters, are you limited in what area to study? It might help us determine what is in your area and therefore what projects you can do. I am from Western Canada (Alberta) and have experience in FW inverts from there. We have an invasive species named Oronectes virilis that is factoring majorly in some environments.

    Edit: nevermind what I had here before, zebra mussles ARE freshwater I was just retarded for a moment
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    Impossible is obviously an exaggeration, however, when you combine my class schedule, work schedule and their hours of operation...that's what makes it impossible.

    I found a lot of articles on the invasion of zebra mussels but nothing that really connected them with any kind of disease spread. Most of the papers are about their ecology and life history.

    The only stipulation with the refuge is you have to have a parking pass but it's open to recreation and everything else. They have several studies going on consistently so being able to perform the research wont be the problem.
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  6. #5  
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    I'm not limited at all. The reason I'm trying to go that direction is because of the program I would be doing for my masters. It would basically be seeing how Cholera effects different trophic levels; top-down and bottom-up cascading etc... so when I told my mentor that she wanted to somehow incorporate disease into our study.

    The biggest problem I'm finding is keeping it short and sweet. Everything I think of doing seems like the type of thing that would be more than just 1 summer of research. That's my limiting factor is time. It has to be something that can be done in 3-3.5 months.

    And I'm used to working with aquatic insects so this whole mussel thing is new territory for me.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    It seems like an incredibly difficult prospect.

    Lifecycle stuff is good to read up on, I'm not sure how you would be able to test for the effects of disease. I'd personally have trouble distinguishing if death of a native species was due to disease or due to competition. Do zebra mussels produce waste that promotes the growth of mussel pathogens? Do they carry viral pathogens into these new habitats that wouldn't otherwise be present, and are capable of infecting the native species? I'm not sure how feasible the project it.
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    Actually the Zebra Mussels clean up the water. They feed on all that OM that would otherwise be eaten by grazers like aquatic insects. Their initial impact is definitely a good one in that they clean up the water and increase the water quality. The problem is when they get so out of control that they actually attach themselves and grow on top of other organisms.

    They share a lot of things with marine mussels that other FW mussels have lost, like their byssal gland which allows them to pretty much be a suction cup. So they can attach themselves to any substrate, including other animals. I'm not sure of any invasive parasites or outside diseases introduced by them; it would be more towards Zebra Mussels having such an effect on the size and fitness of other species that they become more susceptible to disease. Like if they invade an area, the native species, in response, are less abundant and have less resources so their entire population is at risk (if that makes sense).

    I'm half tempted to throw the whole thing out and start from scratch with something I'm more familiar with. This just seems like something that hasn't been done enough to base a whole paper on y'know?

    Thanks everyone for your ideas.
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    Well you stand to gain alot of information about the topic you do your masters on, so make sure it's something that is not only reasonable to accomplish some results in, but something you are interested in. I've seen a masters be only a page or two long, just to say "We did these tests, but everything came out negative". That's a shitty way to get a masters!
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  10. #9  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by salukigirl
    Actually the Zebra Mussels clean up the water. They feed on all that OM that would otherwise be eaten by grazers like aquatic insects. Their initial impact is definitely a good one in that they clean up the water and increase the water quality. The problem is when they get so out of control that they actually attach themselves and grow on top of other organisms.

    They share a lot of things with marine mussels that other FW mussels have lost, like their byssal gland which allows them to pretty much be a suction cup. So they can attach themselves to any substrate, including other animals. I'm not sure of any invasive parasites or outside diseases introduced by them; it would be more towards Zebra Mussels having such an effect on the size and fitness of other species that they become more susceptible to disease. Like if they invade an area, the native species, in response, are less abundant and have less resources so their entire population is at risk (if that makes sense).

    I'm half tempted to throw the whole thing out and start from scratch with something I'm more familiar with. This just seems like something that hasn't been done enough to base a whole paper on y'know?

    Thanks everyone for your ideas.
    It does make sense, but it would still be difficult to test if there was increased susceptibility to disease due to lack of resources. Intuitively there should be, there must be ample literature on the subject just not specific to mussels. I'm sure there's also ample literature on zebra mussels restricting access to resources in native species.

    I found a paper on using mussels as an indicator of E. coli contamination in water, I found that quite novel.
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    Yeah this is just kind of the "stepping stone". The woman at Dartmouth said that the most important factor is my "experience" and as of now I have only done one summer of field work and research. I figure since it is only for one summer and wont be what I'm doing my masters on, it's not a big deal if I'm not completely interested in it. I'm definitely more interested in insects and know much more about them so I'm going to ask her about other ideas.
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  12. #11  
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    It is a big deal that you are interested in it, it helps you enjoy the experience and you'll take alot more from it. It also means you'll probably do a better job.

    However, you might find that something you didn't expect to be interested in becomes a passion once you start working on it.
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  13. #12  
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    tiredsleepy....I did a search and think I found the paper you were describing. I sent it to my mentor to see if she thinks something along those lines would be interesting to do.

    I'm pretty much interested in everything and can get into whatever it is that I'm doing (hence it's taking me so long to finish my undergrad because I've change my major so many times). So I can pretty much guarantee that whatever we finally decide on, I will be excited and into it.
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  14. #13  
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    I'm a disease ecologist at UGA. A girl in my lab works with asian clams and bird flu - and yes, they do remove virus from the water. If you like, PM me and I'll connect you with her. Also, I could probably help you with a few other ideas - have you investigated Avian vacuolar myelinopathy? It's fascinating story of invasive species (FW plants and cyanobacteria) causing an outbreak of a bizarre neurotoxin poisoning - not disease, but we study this kind of stuff, too.

    Not to plug, but UGA does have world class stream ecology and disease ecology programs - they'd dance a jig to get someone to unite the programs.
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