September 27, 2004
Title: Plague Dynamics in a Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Complex in North-Central Montana and Its Implications for Prairie Dogs in South Dakota
Agency: National Science Foundation
Amount: $11,901 (additional funding)
1. Describe this project in five or six sentences. Please use lay terms, and write so a member of the general public with no knowledge of the specific field can grasp the project’s goal and significance.
Prairie dogs are subject to periodic episodes of sylvatic plague, the disease that killed millions of Europeans in the "Black Death" pandemic in the 14th-18th centuries. This disease has spread to rodent populations in North America, including the prairie dog, can wipe out entire colonies, and offers significant threats to human populations. This study will use genetic analysis and computer analysis to develop models predicting the spread of plague across the study area in Montana. These models will be adapted to Badlands Natioal Park, a site with large praire dog populations, in order to provide a risk assessment model to aid decision-making in the event of a plague outbreak in the Park.
2. What is the project timeframe, and who are your major collaborators on the project?
This project will last from July 1, 2004 to July 1, 2005, and forms part of a larger effort of research under a number of other grants. Our main collaborators are Karen Gaines, Hugh Britten, and Leigh Washburn of the University of South Dakota. SDSMT graduate student Erin Landguth will be working on the project.
3. If this is additional funding, what is the total project funding to date?
$11K as above
4. What do you plan to accomplish?
Develop a landscape model predicting the spread of plague across a landscape and apply it to Badlands National Park.
5. Why is this project important to advancing this field of study?
It is important in understanding the genetic characteristics of prairie dogs and the fleas that carry the disease, and it adds to the understanding of the way plague and other diseases spread out across a landscape. It also will provide tools to help manage the possible negative consequences of plague outbreaks, both to animal and human populations.
6. How is the project relevant to, or how might it benefit, the university, community, state, region, nation, or world?
It can provide tools to help personnel at Badlands mitigate a possible plague outbreak at the Park, and minimize the risk to human visitors. The models can also be modified for use with other prairie dog populations, and could offer a starting point for modeling other diseases as well.
7. Does this project have potential for technology transfer and related economic development opportunities? If so, please summarize.
Not directly. 8. Can you suggest any visual way (photos, video, illustrations) to represent this research?
9. Are there any places you want the release sent?
10. Anything else you would like to state regarding this project and the project personnel?
I'd be a little careful with this one, considering the potential for alarming people about the plague, and raising hackles in the current prairie dog debate.
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Devereaux Library. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.