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- Evaluation of the Interface between Feral Pigs and Pasture-Raised Pigs, a Multi-Agency Epidemiological Approach: Implications for Infectious Disease Transmission and Surveillance
- The growing niche of pasture-raised pigs in the last two decades reflects consumer demand for local, sustainable, humanely-raised meat. One of the challenges of raising pigs outdoors is the increasing probability of domestic pigs interfacing with feral pigs and a corresponding increasing risk of emerging diseases. California has one of the largest and widest distributions of feral pigs.These two parallel trends of an expanding feral pig population and a growing interest in pastureraised pork creates a possible disease transmission link for existing pathogens harbored in feral pigs. The overall research goal is to fill a critical information gap regarding the epidemiology of diseases of interest by building a predictive map of high-risk areas for interaction and disease transmission among feral pig populations that interface with pasture-raised pigs in California. The specific objectives are: 1) Geo-spatial characterization of feral pig populations and building a predictive distribution map using Maxent modeling; 2) Geo-spatial characterization of pastureraised pig operations; 3) Identification of high-risk areas for pasture-raised pigs to feral pig interface and disease transmission; 4) Estimation of Salmonella and STEC prevalence in pasture-raised pigs and feral pigs and identification of its risk factors. This project will provide valuable information to all stakeholders, from farmers to consumers, regarding the potential disease risks associated in the interface between pasture and feral pigs. Furthermore, a multiagency- university approach will synergize individual agency efforts on feral swine issues and should prove invaluable as a model for similar efforts nationwide in the near future. The outcomes of this project and team collaborations and the emerging industry of pasture-raised pig producers, will be useful for all related agencies, institutions, and stakeholders that may be called upon to respond to future disease outbreaks and natural disasters. We expect to expand this project to other states by applying to the combined call on swine health and foreign animal diseases (including ‘feral swine reservoir risks and mitigations’) funded by the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) and the National Pork Board (NPB). Other potential funding agency is the USDA AFRI, Foundational Program, Critical Agriculture Research and Extension (CARE).
- Investigating raccoon abundance, home range and Baylisascaris procyonis prevalence in Yosemite National Park and its association with human occupancy in Yosemite Valley
- Currently, there is lack of information regarding the abundance and movements of raccoon population living in Yosemite National Park. Recently, close human-raccoon interactions have been increasingly reported in Yosemite Valley, raising concerns about zoonotic disease transmission. Moreover, due to their diet habits, raccoons may pose a challenge to reintroduction programs of endangered species into the park. This project, in collaboration with the National Park Services, aims to estimate the raccoon population, home range and roundworm prevalence in Yosemite Valley, as well as to study their association with anthropogenic factors and the overlapping with areas of importance regarding conservation of aquatic endangered species. Mark-resight, GPS collaring and flotation methodology will be used to achieve such aims. Final results will offer scientific grounded information to assess whether it is necessary to apply management practices to the raccoon population in Yosemite Valley.
- Development of an Early-Warning System Based on Real-Time Risk Assessment, Producers Self-Assessment of Biosecurity Practices for the Prevention, Early Detection and Rapid Control of AI Outbreaks in the US Poultry Industry.
- The goal of this interdisciplinary, multi-institution, research-extension project within the "Critical Agricultural Research and Extension (CARE)" priority is to develop an innovative early-warning system for better prevention and control of Avian Influenza (AI) outbreaks in US poultry industry. The specific objectives are: i) produce accurate, continuosly updated, high-resolution AI risk maps and identify key factors (e.g., environmental, climatic and anthropogenic factors) associated with AI occurrence in US, ii) integrate those risk maps into a web-based platform for easy visualization and with capabilities to send automatic notifications to producers if changes of AI risk are detected at local or regional level, iii) develop a self-assessment tool where producers can quantify the risk of AIV exposure for their operations at any time given their specific location, biosecurity and management practices, iv) design, implement and test the value of outreach activities, workshops and interactive educational tools to increase awareness, training and responsiveness of small-scale and large scale producers about biosecurity practices and early detection of AI. To accomplish those goals high resolution risk maps will be produced using the cutting-edge method of maximum entropy ecological niche modeling. Data and methods will be integrated into a user-friendly web-based and mobile “app” interface to facilitate the long-term access, visualization, analysis and communication of the AI risk to producers and to provide customized recommendations and educational tools for implementing risk-mitigation measures. This work will provide valuable knowledge and operational tools for poultry producers and other stakeholders to better prevent and control AI outbreaks in the US.