Featured Research

From time to time we will showcase research happening throughout the state.  These projects are also archived in our library for future reference.  If you have a project to share with others, please contact us.

  This Month's Project

2016 - Genetic analysis of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population structure in Iowa: identifying potential patterns and rates of disease spread

Researcher(s): Lynne Gardner and Julie Blanchong (Iowa State University)

Category: Mammals

Abstract: In Iowa and throughout the Midwestern U.S., White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are ubiquitous and inhabit a plethora of environments, including areas dedicated to row-crop agriculture, which encourages long-distance movement and facilitates disease spread. The deer disease of primary concern to the state of Iowa is chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal and untreatable disease of cervids. CWD has been detected in the six states bordering Iowa and three captive facilities within the state. The presence of CWD in wild herds has the potential to negatively affect wild populations and to reduce hunter participation, with negative impacts to state natural resource funding and revenue. In addition to CWD, deer can harbor many other diseases, several of which threaten the health of livestock and humans. One of the most important determinants of disease persistence and transmission is the ability of individuals to effectively mount an immune response.  Individual variation in immune response within a population will determine the population dynamics of infectious disease as well as the effectiveness of control strategies.

The goal of this project is to use population genetics to characterize genetic diversity, genetic structure, and disease susceptibility in white-tailed deer populations in Iowa and across the Midwest. The results of this research will assist managers in identifying appropriate scales for deer and disease management, provide insight into potential distances and directions of disease spread across the Midwestern U.S., and contribute increased understanding of factors determining individual variation in disease susceptibility.