Mongoose are group living, territorial species that are considered to be diurnal that is active in the day. Researchers in our group identify mysterious nighttime behaviors. Why are they sneaking into other troops territories? One was observed peaking in at other troops in their dens! Here contact dynamics are much more complicated than we thought with new opportunities for pathogen movement.
Welcome Kelton Verble - New Masters Student in the Alexander Lab Kelton's Bio My research interests include wildlife conservation genetics, disease ecology, and population dynamic assessments. I earned my B.S. in Wildlife from Purdue University in May of 2016. As an undergraduate, I provided assistance for various research projects that introduced me to genetic analysis and disease surveillance techniques.
For the current project, I will be using microsatellite genotyping together with observational data to determine inbreeding, relatedness within and between banded mongoose (Mungos mungo) troops. I will also be estimating troop dispersal and fusion/fission events across a diverse landscape. The resulting outputs will be incorporated into infectious disease transmission models dealing with a novel, emerging tuberculosis pathogen (Mycobacterium mungi) infecting banded mongoose in Botswana.
Banded mongoose tracking continues. Troop movements have been very diverse and intriguing. This is one of the driest and hottest seasons we have had for decades. Understanding how mongoose move and behave under extreme weather events will provide insight into the impacts of future climate change. Of interest is the manner in which human provisioning influences space use and intergroup contact.
The Alexander lab research team has had their hands full the past few months, setting camera traps, finding new troops and fitting mongoose with ear tags for individual identification.
We recently acquired a number of Reconyx UltraFire trail cameras, which we are all very excited about putting to use. These cameras will allow us to supplement our growing collection of trail camera photos with 1080p high definition video of mongoose behaviors and interactions at den sites. In addition to providing us with valuable data for our research, these things are just really cool and we are looking forward to sharing some videos with our followers.
One of the things our research is aimed at helping us understand is how contact between individuals and the patterns of association within troops can influence infection probabilities and the risk of disease transmission. Answering this question requires us to intensively monitor and record the behaviors of mongoose in select troops. Because there are few observable physical differences between mongoose, we have recently begun using small brightly colored eartags in order to accurately identify individuals. These temporary tags are an important part of our study and will allow us to monitor interactions and group dynamics, identify the individuals who may be most susceptible to disease, and continually monitor the health status of mongoose throughout the year. So far we have fitted fifteen mongoose with these tags and we hope to fit about 45 more in the next few months.
During the next week, we will be spending quite a bit of time in Chobe National Park while attempting to place VHF collars on additional troops. In the past, capturing individuals from park troops has proven to be quite a bit more difficult than trapping habituated town troops, but having trackable park troops is essential in order for us to understand how proximity to human communities and anthropogenic food sources may alter behavior and thus pathogen transmission.
Hopefully we will return next week successful in our trapping efforts and with more mongoose media to share. Keep checking back with us for more updates on the project! We also have a new mongoose project email address, so if you have any questions about our work on banded mongoose feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org !