As a part of a joint wildlife disease initiative, Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources issued a request for funding proposals earlier this year. The following projects have been selected for their efforts toward collaborative research, education and outreach projects to address the most important issues around wildlife disease in Michigan, especially chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer.
The projects focus on CWD prion behavior and persistence in the environment; development of new detection and testing methods, such as rapid tests and field and live animal tests; development and delivery of innovative educational materials to inform natural resources managers and citizens about CWD; and multi-institutional collaborations.
Chronic Wasting Disease
- Is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that infects deer, elk and moose in North America.
- Is most commonly believed to be caused by a prion, or an abnormal form of cellular protein fund in the central nervous system and in lymphoid tissue.
- Was first detected in Michigan in 2015.
- Has been found in 120-plus deer in nine Michigan counties.
- Causes long-term population declines of white-tailed deer.
- Has led to concerns over potential implications to human health.
The Michigan Natural Resources Commission established the Chronic Wasting Disease Working Group to develop recommendations on steps and actions to mitigate or eliminate CWD in Michigan.
- The key recommendation was the development of public education to address CWD.
- Stakeholders, experts and decision-makers together are developing, designing and implementing the education and outreach plan and deliverables.
“CWD Outreach and Education”Michigan State University and the Michigan DNR will partner to hire a new statewide MSU Extension educator to create, deliver and evaluate local and statewide communication strategies and educational programs around CWD. This individual will increase:
Jordan Burroughs, MSU Extension
- CWD awareness among diverse audiences.
- Hunter confidence in DNR management.
- Stakeholder acceptance of CWD management and outcomes.
“Influence of Deer Harvest Regulations on Antlerless Harvest, Abundance, and Sex and Age Composition: Implications for Managing Deer in the Face of Chronic Wasting Disease”This four-year study will examine how different deer hunting regulations influence abundance and herd composition. The information will be used to develop models to assess how the different harvest scenarios impact CWD prevalence. Results will provide needed information to Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission for establishing deer harvest regulations in CWD management zones in Michigan.
Stephen Beyer, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
“Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD): Field Animal-Side Testing and Improving Laboratory Diagnostic Sensitivity”This study aims to develop a rapid, portable, field-friendly screening test based on technology used for in-home testing. The tool would be helpful with early disease detection and disease surveillance. In combination with existing technology used at the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the goal is to optimize testing overall.
Dr. Srinand Sreevatsan, MSU College of Veterinary Medicine
“A standardized, high-throughput genetic resource to inform white-tailed deer population and disease management”Current techniques to manage genetic data of white-tailed deer and disease have significant limitations, including high costs, slow results and difficulty in standardization. This study will design a new suite of efficient, cost-effective, collaborative genomic resources for white-tailed deer that will be commercially available to wildlife managers and researchers at roughly half the current cost.
Caitlin Ott-Conn, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
“Composting Deactivation of CWD Prions”Exposure to CWD-infected cervids (deer, elk and moose), either through hunting, slaughtering or ingestion of meat, is considered an exposure risk that might lead to human infection. Prions, infectious proteins that cause CWD, exist in the environment. This study will examine if composting of infected animals could help with biodegradation of some of the prions.
Robert Michitsch, University of Wisconsin
“Multistate CWD Strategic Planning Initiative”This project will engage CWD researchers and resource managers through a multistate strategic planning session hosted by MSU in September 2019. By drawing on a multidisciplinary group of wildlife and disease experts, researchers hope to identify the greatest needs for CWD research, build strong collaborations for targeted research efforts and develop unified messaging of new findings across regions and state agencies.
Sonja A. Christensen, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
“Employing collaboration and innovation to develop CWD education and outreach”The National Charrette Institute (NCI) at MSU will conduct a three-day workshop to unite the diverse range of stakeholders to co-develop an education and outreach plan that fosters buy-in and commitment from key stakeholders. The process will also include focus groups with a wide range of existing and new stakeholders.
Emily Pomeranz, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
“Mechanistic understanding on environmental behavior, bioavailability and persistence in chronic wasting disease prions”This project uses a combination of innovative biological, chemical and engineering approaches to study the persistence, bioavailability and infectivity of prions -- the infectious abnormal proteins believed to cause CWD -- in the environment. New sensors will be developed and capable of measuring metal and prion concentrations simultaneously. This project will be foundational to competing for external grants.
Wei Zhang, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
“The next frontier of CWD models in Michigan: an agent-based approach for surveillance and management assessment”The goal of this study is to use agent-based models to develop efficient CWD surveillance and management strategies for Michigan and establish a framework for other states. This type of computational modeling accounts for variability in individual deer behavior, specific environmental or landscape contexts, and variability in infection period. The project will:
William F. Porter, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Adapt and update existing agent-based CWD models for Michigan.
- Provide model-derived recommendations for locale-specific surveillance strategies.
- Use model-derived insights to develop defensible CWD management strategies.
“Optimizing CWD Surveillance: Regional Synthesis of Demographic, Spatial, and Transmission-Risk Factors”This study will evaluate current analytical tools used for disease surveillance and determine which can be synthesized to derive a more powerful sampling strategy. The result will be a tool that integrates local harvest and disease prevalence data with data science, mathematical and statistical modeling techniques. By identifying risk factors for CWD, states can tailor sampling protocols to maximize efficiency and confidence in disease prevalence.
Dr. Krysten Schuler, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
“Inactivation of CWD prions by peroxymonosulfate and hypochlorous acid”This study will test the efficacy of two promising decontamination agents in inactivating CWD prions on different materials that may come in contact with, such as metals (e.g., stainless steel, tin, aluminum), plastics (polyethylene, polypropylene), nylon and glass. The ultimate goal is to use these agents to decontaminate surfaces in meat processing, animal housing facilities and laboratories after exposure.
Joel A. Pedersen, University of Wisconsin