PhD student in our team, Tamika Lunn, was invited to speak at a symposium on integrating disease surveillance and bat conservation, at the International Bat Research Conference (IBRC).
The symposium “Win-win solutions for emerging infectious disease surveillance and bat conservation” brought together research and experiences on a diverse range of systems, and hosted talks from a number of fellow bat researchers including Dr. Kevin Olival, Dr. Kendra Phelps and Dr. Jonathan Epstein from EcoHealth Alliance, Prof David Hayman from Massey University, and Dr Aaron Irving from Duke-NUS Medical School. Tamika was excited to give her first (ever!) conference presentation in such an inspiring symposium and conference!
Title: “Bats, disease, and dynamic densities: Investigating community structure as a driver of viral dynamics in flying-foxes”
Authors: Tamika Lunn, Alison Peel, Peggy Eby, Remy Brooks, Maureen Kessler, Raina Plowright and Hamish McCallum
Abstract: Bats are highly gregarious mammals, with some species roosting in dense, seasonal colonies that can range from hundreds to hundreds-of-thousands of animals. This creates frequent opportunities for direct and indirect contact between large numbers of individuals, and contributes to the propensity of bats to be important disease reservoirs. Understanding the roosting dynamics of bats is important in the context of infectious disease, as spatio-temporal patterns in abundance and density will influence infectious contacts between individuals, and thus the propensity for infection and spread of disease. We investigated the roosting structure of three sympatric species of flying-fox (Pteropus alecto, P. poliocephalus and P. scapulatus), using high-resolution spatial mapping techniques. Preliminary analyses show dynamic patterns of animal clustering through space and time, driven by underlying roost tree structure and dramatic fluctuations in total bat abundance. Future analyses will integrate roosting dynamics with matched data on Hendra virus excretion to mathematically explore the plausibility of hypothesised but unobservable mechanisms of virus circulation in bats. We will also explore the potential for “dilution” of infectious contacts within bat populations with infiltration of nomadic, dead-end hosts (P. poliocephalus and P. scapulatus) to primary reservoir host communities (P. alecto). Simulations of virus invasion and spread within bat populations will be important for inferring disease dynamics in species with highly unstable, periodically fluctuating densities. As one of few studies to systematically evaluate roosting patterns in flying-foxes, this study will also provide valuable ecological information on bat habitat preferences, with practical applications for flying-fox conservation and conflict management.