Evaluating the population genetic structure of eastern white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus): implications for management of chronic wasting disease
Will Miller (Penn State)
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible prion disease that affects free-ranging white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations. Chronic wasting disease is spread via direct animal contact or indirectly through the environment. Regional management strategies for mitigating the spread of CWD focus on minimizing contact between infected and susceptible populations. Estimating inter-population contact rates necessitates explicit knowledge of dispersal patterns, which is often difficult to obtain at regional scales using conventional methods (e.g. radiotelemetry, mark-recapture). I will determine patterns of genetic population structure using neutral and functional genetic markers in order to infer effective dispersal rates, delineate potential disease transmission pathways, and assess population susceptibility to CWD at the conclusion of this project.