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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Awardee:CONNECTICUT COLLEGE
Doing Business As Name:Connecticut College
PD/PI:
  • Taegan A McMahon
  • (860) 235-7066
  • tmcmahon@conncoll.edu
Award Date:06/16/2021
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 206,276
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 114,676
  • FY 2018=$114,676
Start Date:10/01/2020
End Date:07/31/2022
Transaction Type:Grant
Agency:NSF
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.074
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Collaborative Research: Managing epidemics in wildlife with acquired resistance
Federal Award ID Number:2113544
DUNS ID:069256162
Parent DUNS ID:069256162
Program:Symbiosis Infection & Immunity
Program Officer:
  • Joanna Shisler
  • (703) 292-5368
  • jshisler@nsf.gov

Awardee Location

Street:270 Mohegan Avenue
City:New London
State:CT
ZIP:06320-4196
County:New London
Country:US
Awardee Cong. District:02

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Connecticut College
Street:
City:
State:CT
ZIP:06320-5624
County:New London
Country:US
Cong. District:02

Abstract at Time of Award

Infectious diseases pose a serious threat to many wild animals. While vaccination is a successful tool against diseases of humans and livestock, it is rarely used to control wildlife diseases. This is partly because of a poor understanding of immunity in wild animals and its impact across a large population. This award will address these gaps in knowledge by studying the immunity acquired by frogs against a fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Bd infection has caused a severe decline in frog numbers around the world. Recent studies have shown that frogs exposed to dead Bd become resistant to future infection. They suggest that the immune system of frogs can be harnessed to fight Bd. This award combines mathematical theory with laboratory and field experiments to understand the correlates of acquired resistance to Bd in frogs and assess the potential for managing outbreaks in wild populations by stimulating acquired resistance to the fungus. Results of this study will facilitate the development and testing of a novel, widely applicable theory for the management of epidemics in wildlife. Consequently, this work will help to curb losses of biodiversity. Researchers will share their results with groups working on frog conservation and provide multi-disciplinary training to a diverse group of scientists. Computer-based teaching tools that illustrate wildlife disease management through vaccination will be developed and made publicly available. There is poor understanding of acquired resistance in wild animals and a scarcity of theory underlying wildlife vaccination. These gaps in physiology and ecology will be addressed in the current research using amphibians and the chytrid fungus, Bd. Bd is selected for study because this pathogen contributes to global amphibian declines and the recent discovery that amphibians acquire immunological resistance following exposure to dead Bd. This award integrates mathematical theory with laboratory and field experiments to i) characterize the acquisition and maintenance of Bd resistance across host life stages, ii) evaluate the immunological mechanisms responsible for individual resistance and whether their presence predicts population-level outcomes, iii) determine if resistance can be induced in wild populations, and iv) if so, can this alter epidemics and host persistence in a whole-ecosystem experiment populations - an outcome of broad significance for wildlife conservation. This project links immunological mechanisms and individual-level traits to population- and community-level disease outcomes. It advances fundamental knowledge of host-parasite interactions while helping to curb disease-driven worldwide losses of biodiversity. Results of this research will be disseminated to conservation partners to help limit the spread of chytridiomycosis. This research will facilitate the training of a diverse group of scientists in physiology, ecology, and mathematical biology. Computer modules that illustrate general and amphibian-specific outcomes of disease management via acquired immunity will be integrated into teaching and made publicly available. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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