- Landscape ecology and genetics
- Host-parasite interactions
- Immune genetics (MHC)
The fragmentation of continuous habitats into discrete habitat patches confronts animals with mosaic-like landscapes. Typically, habitat “islands” (such as a forest fragment) are surrounded by an often less habitable structure, termed the “matrix” (e.g. farmland or urbanized areas). The community composition and population structures in habitat fragments differ between landscapes depending on several factors such as size of habitat remnants, spatial arrangements, quality of the matrix, microclimatic conditions, food availability among others. In most cases, however, a decrease of species and genetic diversity is likely to be observed in environments under strong anthropogenic influence.
I am interested in the question to what extent anthropogenic disturbance on a landscape level has an effect on the health of wild animal populations. My research is based on the so-called “dilution effect hypothesis”. This ecological concept states that a decrease in host genetic diversity/host species diversity leads to increased parasite/pathogen prevalence. In my PhD thesis, I investigate the species diversity of small terrestrial mammals (rodents and marsupials) in three landscapes of the Panama Canal area, which differ mainly in the degree of landscape connectivity. To determine health effects I will assess the adaptive immune gene diversity (major histocompatibility complex), the parasite load (gastrointestinal helminths) and the composition of the gut microbiome of the Tome’s Spiney Rat (Proechimys semispinosus) and the Common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis).
- Julian Schmid
Institute of Evolutionary Ecology
and Conservation Genomics
University of Ulm