Landscape Epidemiology

Understanding the distribution and spatial dynamics of an emerging infectious disease is crucial to predicting spread to new geographic areas, revealing the history of infection, and developing appropriate management strategies.  The time since disease introduction and distance from initial cases are important factors in determining the spatial pattern of disease incidence.  However, environmental heterogeneity and the spatial arrangement and movement patterns of hosts adds further complexity to the process of disease spread.  
The cervid hosts of CWD are extremely adaptable; they live in and move through a wide range of environmental conditions.  But not all landscapes are created equal.  Environmental factors may influence the density, arrangement, and availability of susceptible hosts, thereby influencing the probability of pathogen invasion, as well as pathogen viability in the environment and other host-pathogen dynamics.  Variation in habitat characteristics that affect social group structure and interactions among hosts can further impact local transmission dynamics as well as shape the pattern of spreading epidemics
Establishing links between landscape data and disease patterns is fundamental to the field of landscape epidemiology, which emphasizes spatial modeling and risk mapping to understand disease dynamics.  Recent advances in the availability of geographic data, advances in spatial analysis, and concern about emerging diseases have facilitated the application of landscape epidemiology to wildlife diseases.  Landscape models and risk maps have helped understand the prevalence and spread of several important diseases including West Nile Virus, rabies, avian influenza epizootics, and others.
We employ landscape epidemiological modeling to better understand the ways in which environmental heterogeneity impacts the deer populations and the dynamics of CWD.  Research objectives include:


Highest concentration of CWD infection identified using spatial scan statistics.

Highest concentration of CWD infection identified using spatial scan statistics.










Sampled townships (squares) are shown relative to environmental features used in landscape genetic analysis of deer across the CWD zone of WI and IL.

A variety of landscape features were evaluated for their impact on deer population connectivity and relation to CWD spread.