The Effects of Urban Development on Disease Susceptibility on Bobcats in an Urban Fragmented Landscape
Lead Biologist: Laurel Klein Serieys, Ph.D. Candidate [Laurelklein (at) Ucla.Edu]
Lead Agencies and Advisors: University of California, Los Angeles (Dr. Robert K. Wayne) and National Park Service (Dr. Seth P.D. Riley)
Project Duration: 2006-2012
Funding Source: National Science Foundation, Summerlee Foundation, UCLA, SAMO Fund, Panthera, Santa Monica Audubon Society, Friends of Griffith Park, Private Donations
Collaborating Agencies: University of California, Davis; Colorado State University; United States Geological Survey (USGS)
Project Overview and Goals: The project is a graduate student (Laurel Klein) research project and a collaboration between UCLA and NPS. This disseratation project involved two years of intense bobcat trapping, ear-tagging, and sample collection in Topanga State and Malibu Creek State Park areas, Griffith Park, and Hollywood Hills, Beverly Hills and Bel Air areas. 50 bobcats were captured and samples collected for intense laboratory analyses (in progress). The main objectives of this study are to examine several consequences of urban development, and their potential role in increased disease susceptibility in local bobcat populations, including:
1) The effects of reduced gene flow between populations resulting from urban development and barrier effects created by major freeways. Reduced gene flow could lead to inbreeding within bobcat populations isolated from one another. Inbreeding can lead to reduced genetic variation at genes important in immune defense. This work is being conducted in the Robert Wayne Lab at UCLA.
2) The effects of exposure to common pesticides, in particular, anticoagulant rat poisons, the number one method of rodent control used worldwide. Although we have yet to identify a mechanism by which exposure to anticoagulants can reduce immune function in bobcats, we are documenting widespread exposure of bobcats and other carnivore species in the study area. Beyond causing direct mortalities in individuals, these poisons could have yet unknown effects when exposure occurs at low doses chronically throughout an animal's life. We seek to understand better the effects of chronic, sublethal anticoagulant rat poison exposure on bobcats. Collaborators for this research include Dr. Robert Poppenga at California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory (UC Davis) and Dr. Christel Uittenbogaart at UCLA.
3) The effects of spillover of disease from domestic to wild animal populations. Specifically, we are measuring exposure to common feline (cat) diseases in bobcats and whether disease exposure varies according to the degree of urban association within individuals. Collaborators for this research include Drs. Sue VandeWoude and Kevin Crooks at Colorado State University.