Rochner Films

Cinematography Production & Timelapse

Brucellosis Research

Brucellosis is a chronic bacterial disease found in livestock and wildlife, predominantly in elk and bison, in the Greater Yellowstone Area- the last remaining brucellosis hot spot in the U.S.  It causes abortions in its carriers and is transmitted within and among wildlife and livestock when individuals feed near infected fetuses, placentas, or birthing fluids. Brucellosis has existed in the GYE for almost a century and is responsible for persistent conflicts between people and wildlife.

The information on this page concerns a four year brucellosis study titled Collaborative Research: Effects of land-use, predation and management on wildlife contact and Brucella transmission in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Several instances of transmission from wildlife to livestock have resulted in cattle outbreaks in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana since 2004. As a result, the proposed research will provide critical scientific information to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national brucellosis eradication program and a contentious wildlife-livestock management problem.

The specific research objectives are to:

  1. Determine whether brucellosis prevalence of elk can be reduced on the supplemental feedgrounds of Wyoming using two ecological field manipulations.
  2. Assess how elk contact rates relate to group size, disease status, supplemental feeding, age, and environmental conditions.
  3. Determine the effects of changing land-ownership, irrigation, predation, and hunting on elk group size distributions and brucellosis prevalence.
  4. Estimate the amount of intraspecific brucellosis transmission among elk populations and the interspecific transmission among elk, bison and cattle using a combination of host and pathogen DNA markers and genomics.
  5. Model the effects of habitat and group size heterogeneity on disease dynamics and management strategies

Visit the GYE Brucellosis Site for more information


Brucella Research Projects

Project 1: Proximity Collars

Fine-scale estimation of contact rates: How individuals contact one another plays a key role in disease dynamics—by influencing seasonal patterns of infection. We are using a recently developed proximity collar technology to continuously monitor elk-elk and elk-fetus contacts as a function of group size, time of year, supplemental feeding, ambient conditions, and an individual’s disease status. We initiated this study in Jan. 2009 with 60 female elk captured on two feedgrounds and the collars were recovered in Jan. 2010. We also placed proximity loggers under elk fetuses and at random sites without fetuses to estimate elk-fetus contact, the degree of attraction to fetuses, and the effects of altered feeding regimes on these contact rates.

Project 4: Genetics

Estimating the relationships between host density, transmission, and prevalence implicitly assumes that the disease dynamics are driven by local/internal processes rather than immigration from other populations or spill-over from other hosts. We will use genetic analyses of B. abortus isolates and elk to assess the amount of elk movement among populations and B. abortus transmission among species and populations.

Dr. Mark Drew Interview

Dr. Mark Drew discusses Brucella Abortus in Idaho.

Dr. Martin Zaluski Interview

Interview with Dr. Martin Zaluski on brucellosis in Montana.

John Anderson Interview

Alder MT livestock producer talks about brucellosis-infected elk.