Ana did WHAT to the moose? No silly! AnaPLASMA in moose!!

By: Rebecca Garcia

Hey y’all! My name’s Rebecca García and I am currently a rising junior at the University of California, Los Ángeles (UCLA). I am majoring in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution and double minoring in Disability Studies and Chicanx Studies. I am currently on a pre-vet track and hope to obtain a dual degree (DVM/PhD) with a specialty in exotic animals and conservation/zoonotic research.

I am conducting online research in Dr. Pauline Kamath’s laboratory where there is an emphasis on studying wildlife infections and how they spread, as well as researching host-pathogen evolution. My project aims to study Anaplasma, which is a bacteria that affects the blood cells of moose. We want to research Anaplasma so that we can minimize knowledge gaps regarding moose survival.

Moose are extremely important to hunters and indigenous people’s culture. Unfortunately, in the Northeast US, there have been moose declines that are attributed to Winter Tick, which is another parasite that also affects the blood cells of moose.

Currently, there is very little research on Anaplasma and its prevalence. Our lab aims to quantify the prevalence of Anaplasma in Maine and compare that to the prevalence in Idaho. It is also important to note that there are different strains, or species, of Anaplasma that affect wildlife populations. These strains are A. marginale, A. bovis, A. ovis, A. centrale, A. platys, and A. phagocytophilum. A phagocytophilum is also contagious to humans. Our lab is also researching what strain of Anaplasma is found in Maine and Idaho moose, as well as comparing the strains to each other to see if they are similar. Additionally, we are attempting to figure out what makes a moose more prone to being infected (ex: age, weight, sex, location, etc). We hope that by answering these questions, we will be able to help inform moose conservation management strategies.

I have loved my experience at REU ANEW! My mentors have been wonderful to work with and they are always open to answering any and all questions that I may come across or need clarification on. The program material has been vital to growing my research skills and I know that I will be using them in my future. I am forever grateful for having been granted the opportunity to be a part of this cohort with such amazing, like-minded individuals and I am excited to see what our futures hold!