Challenges of Disease
Parasites and pathogens affect practically every living organism. Yet the ways that individuals respond to and cope with infectious disease are not always clear. In recent research, we have been experimentally assessing how red-winged blackbirds cope with infection with hemosporidian parasites. These blood-borne pathogens include the genus Plasmodium which causes malaria in many vertebrate species, including humans and blackbirds. Our study population at the Queen's Biology Station experiences remarkably high prevalence of infection, with practically every breeding adult infected with parasites from one or more genus of Hemosporidian.
In recent and ongoing collaborations with former Bonier lab members Dr. Laura Schoenle (former PhD student), Dr. Ivana Schoepf (postdoc and current collaborator), and Sarena Olson (former MSc student), along with collaborator Dr. Ignacio Moore, we have experimentally documented costs of infection in captive adult males and free-ranging breeding females and their offspring. You can read more about this research here, here, and here. Stay tuned for several exciting new publications from this project coming soon!