Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Sandra de Urioste-Stone

Second Committee Member

Pauline Kamath

Third Committee Member

John Daigle

Additional Committee Members

Peter J. Perkins

Kristin Peet

Abstract

Many Eastern moose (Alces alces, Linnaeus; 1758) populations along the southern edge of their North American range are declining, including those in Minnesota, Vermont, and New Hampshire. More recently, in Maine, winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus; Packard 1869) are suspected to also be influencing the population through periodic widespread mortality of calves. While metabolic stress from heavy winter tick parasitism has been implicated in these moose population declines, little is known about the relative effects of tick-borne diseases, which may compound metabolic stress. Tick-borne pathogens known to infect cervid species include Anaplasma species, a group of bacteria that cause a disease known as anaplasmosis. Furthermore, the decline of moose and emergence of ticks in Maine could influence outdoor recreation behavior, cultural practices, nature-based tourism businesses, and wildlife management. Perceived risk in regards to a decline in the moose population, the effects of winter ticks on moose, and the impacts that these may have on human systems could potentially influence people’s behaviors and management decision-making. To address both biological and social concerns, I applied an interdisciplinary approach with the following three goals: (G1) determine the prevalence and distribution of Anaplasma species infections in Maine’s moose and winter tick populations, and genetically characterized the species through sequencing and phylogenetic analyses, (G2) investigate whether fitness (in terms of calf survival through the winter) is predicted by its Anaplasma-infection status, tick load, and/or related health indices, and (G3) identify which factors (e.g. the experiences a person has had with the moose/winter tick system) determine Penobscot Nation citizens’ risk perceptions in regards to moose health, and the impacts of winter tick moose infestation on human systems. In addressing G1, I tested for the presence or absence of Anaplasma species DNA in moose and winter ticks by amplifying a 16S rRNA gene locus, capable of genus-level taxonomic specification. These data revealed that a large proportion (~54%) of moose calves in Maine are infected with an uncharacterized Anaplasma species, with a significant difference in Anaplasma prevalence between northern and western study sites as well as between sexes. Anaplasma was also detected in winter ticks, but only in a single pooled sample (

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