CIE Seminar Series 2014 – Ecology of bovine tuberculosis control in wildlife and cattle

Robbie McDonaldSPEAKER: Professor Robbie McDonald, Environmental and Sustainability Institute, Chair in Natural Environment, University of Exeter, Cornwall UK
DATE: Friday, 5th December 2014
LOCATION: Melbourne Campus at Burwood, Room LT5 (B3.07)
TIME: 2:00 pm
Seminar will also be video linked to the following campuses: Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds, Room ka4.207 and Warrnambool Campus, Room C1.13

ABSTRACT: Bovine tuberculosis is among the greatest challenges for animal health in the UK. Because of the involvement of badgers as a wildlife reservoir, control of the disease has become technically and politically complex and is characterized by a deep-seated, social conflict around whether or not to control badger populations.

The social biology of badgers is central to the transmission of TB among badgers and onwards to cattle, leading to complex outcomes for interventions aimed at controlling the disease.

Culling badgers has been linked to a perturbation effect, whereby rates of contact among badgers and between badgers and cattle are thought to increase in response to a breakdown in social structures. However, the underlying features of badger behaviour that lead to these effects are not comprehensively characterized.

In this talk, I will provide a summary of the bovine TB problem and current approaches to control. I will then describe recent work detailing the significance of individual and social behaviour for the acquisition and transmission of TB and how this relates to options for control by biosecurity, vaccination and culling.

The technical and political complexity of this disease problem is such that current approaches to control are failing. I will conclude by highlighting that ecological complexity is only part of the problem in control of this disease and that innovative social solutions are likely to be required to address this and other wildlife disease challenges in future.

BIO: Robbie is a wildlife biologist and is Chair in Natural Environment at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute, based on the University’s Cornwall Campus.

Prior to this, Robbie was Head of Wildlife Science at the UK Food and Environment Research Agency, where he lead a large programme of work on wildlife management, including major projects on badgers and TB, invasive species management and sustainable control of wildlife damage.

His interests are in wildlife management and in human conflicts about wildlife. He teaches a Biology of Mammals course at the University, about half of which is about marsupials, so it is about time he made it to Australia!

For enquiries and appointments with the guest speaker, please email Euan Ritchie.