• 6 backers
  • $265 of $4,300

Fontbonne University

Verified 501(c)(3) Non-Profit


Project description
Infectious diseases are a recognized part of the global landscape, and human-wildlife interactions often increase as human populations alter the environment (Daszak et al. 2001). Given this, it is surprising how little is known about how landscape disruption impacts wildlife and parasite movement or how urban wildlife thrives there.
Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are hosts to numerous pathogens, including rabies, canine distemper, and Baylisascaris procyonis, a highly infectious roundworm. B. procyonis is asymptomatic in raccoons, but in accidental hosts, including humans, serious cases of larval migrans have been reported, including visceral, ocular, and neural migrans (Pinero et al. 2012, Roberts et al. 2009). Interestingly, raccoons often reduce their home range in response to major roadways, avoiding the risk associated with crossing (Dupuis-Desormeaux et al., unpublished data). Raccoons will also alter their social groups when around human activity, increasing their group sizes and contact rates, possibly leading to opportunities for parasite transmission (Hirsch et al. 2013).
Forest Park, the largest urban park in the US, is home to numerous tourist attractions. Concurrently, Forest Park is home to several raccoon groups, drawn by the open landscapes, relative safety from urban threats (e.g. major roadways), and available food resources (i.e. tourist attractions). As a result, Forest Park is an ideal system for examining the effects of human activities on raccoon populations and their parasites.
In this project, we will explore the role of the urban landscape on both host – raccoons – and parasite – raccoon roundworm – movement throughout an urban park. We will first survey and geotag the park’s raccoon populations, collecting fecal samples weekly at identified raccoon latrines and measuring gastrointestinal parasite burden. We will also measure genetic relatedness to determine raccoon ‘neighborhoods’ within the park. This will allow us to understand how landscape changes, including ‘urbanness,’ impacts both host and parasite.
Sample collection will begin in May 2015 and continue for approximately one year. Samples will be immediately processed for parasites; genetic analysis of raccoon populations will begin soon after field collections, in early June 2015 and be completed throughout the year as samples are collected. Analysis will be completed by the fall of 2016, with conference presentations and published manuscripts to follow.
The broad scope of our research is on understanding the relationship between human activities and host and parasite movement in urban wildlife populations. Here, our focus on one large city park allows us to begin to tease apart how urban raccoons can use a park as habitat refugia, navigating this human-altered landscape.

Kelly Lane-deGraaf is a disease ecologist, specializing in mammalian host population genetics and gastrointestinal parasite transmission dynamics. She is currently an Assistant Professor and the Co-Director of the Center for One Health at Fontbonne University in St. Louis. She completed a MS at Saint Louis University, a PhD at the University of Notre Dame, and postdoctoral research at the University of Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology. Prior work includes research on the relationship between genetic diversity in African buffalo, bovine tuberculosis, and nematodes in South Africa’s national parks and on the landscape genetics and parasites of long-tailed macaques in Indonesia. In addition to her raccoon work, Dr. Lane-deGraaf has ongoing projects examining the relationship between human activities in macaques across SE Asia and spider monkeys in Costa Rica.

Peter Hibbeler and Justin Rujawitz are juniors and sophomores, respectively, at Fontbonne University. Both are biology majors and are conducting research on raccoons with Dr. Lane-deGraaf. Surprisingly, they are also both star members of the university’s volleyball team. Mr. Hibbeler plans to attend medical school upon graduation, with an emphasis in internal medicine. Mr. Rujawitz also plans to attend medical school, with an emphasis in pediatric oncology.

Expected project outcomes
Projected outcomes from this work include at least three manuscripts submitted to journals such as Landscape Ecology, International Journal for Parasitology – Parasites and Wildlife, and the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. Beyond this, expected outcomes include student presentations at local and national disease ecology conferences. More importantly, colleagues involved with park management will have a better understanding of where raccoons and their parasites frequent, their relationships with other groups across the park, and their movement patterns.

Will any products of the project be made available to donors ?
Every donor will receive an acknowledgment on our project website ( For donations of $100 or more, donors will also receive a Fontbonne University pen, Fontbonne University Center for One Health button, and a project image signed by all project members. For donations of $500 or greater, donors will receive everything listed above and will also receive an acknowledgment on all project publications and a Fontbonne University Center for One Health tote. For donations of $1000 or more, again, donors will receive everything listed above and will also receive a Fontbonne University Center for One Health visor. And finally, for donations of $5000 or more, donors will receive everything listed above and a Fontbonne University Center for One Health plush raccoon and mug.

1. 2 x Motion-activated cameras, ~$300/camera
2. Genotyping expenses:
a. Flourescently-labeled primers - $2200
b. DNA extraction reagents - $1100
3. Parasitology expenses (includes collection tubes, McMasters slides, etc), ~$400

Student stipend(s):
Two students for 10 weeks summer salary: $7400
Student Housing: For two students: $2100
Student Travel (state destination(s) and purpose): n/a

TOTAL: $13,800

Matching funds:
Student housing and stipends will be covered in toto by the Center for One Health ($9,500).

TOTAL amount to raise on CREU: $4,300


Twitter Handle:@DrKLDG

(Note: Proposal modified in reponse to reviewers comments)


CREU recommends this project at the Highly Recommended level

Reviewer Comments:

" The project is very interesting and should generate valuable information."

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