The Smith Lab at UWEC initiated the Long-term Study of California Ground Squirrels in 2013. This project involves detailed monitoring of life history traits, behavior, physiology, and genetic of individually marked squirrels. The Smith Lab uses these data to “reveal the causes and fitness consequences of decision-making in a changing world.” See Dr. Smith’s website for more information about their work.
Recently, the abundance and prevalence of ectoparasites on squirrels have been measured and linked to host traits and ecology. Ground squirrels also have a rich intestinal parasite community, but these have not been assessed in the past >80 years. We are collaborating with the Smith Lab to survey for intestinal parasites fecal samples that have been banked since the start of the long-term project. These data will be used to design a comprehensive, quantitative diagnostic qPCR panel for measuring the parasite communities of individual squirrels, which can then be linked to host behavior, personality, and life history traits.