With the start of a new academic year, all the grad students are in place, and the collection of data for our Chronic Wasting Disease project is running smoothly. The project led by Debbie McKenzie at the University of Alberta was officially announced in December of 2016. She and her team are working to identify CWD strains, model risk, predict the spread of the disease, and to eventually sequence the genome of the mule deer. CWD was first recognized in mule deer about 50 years ago but it remains a difficult disease to understand.
One thing the team has learned is that different variants of the disease can infect different hosts and that it could jump species.
That finding is important to determining the spread of the disease, what it means to long-term population dynamics, and about both real and perceived risks to domestic livestock. It is already present in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and 24 states in the U.S. but the serious fire situation over the summer may also have an effect on its spread. 'May' being key, because there has been little study on how wildlife movement in such situations changes the dynamic.
Freelance Broadcaster Don Hill talked with researcher Ellen Goodard to get an update on the project.
Fire fallout may change Chronic Wasting Disease dynamic