Miss Emma Gillingham
Supervisors: Sarah Perkins (Cardiff University, UK), Jo Cable (Cardiff University, UK), Annapaola Rizzoli (Edmund Mach Foundation, Italy).
Climate change is the biggest threat facing ecosystems in the 21st century, and knowing how organisms will respond to climate change is vital. There is already evidence of ecological shifts occurring in response to increasing temperatures, such as earlier bird migration and insect emergence, and distributions of some species has shifted. Parasites will not be exempt from such changes, because many species spend part of the lifecycle outside of the host at the mercy of the climate, and there is already evidence from the arctic, where the greatest increase in temperatures will be seen, that parasitic lifestyles are changing in response to a changing climate.
My PhD involves using the yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis; Fig. 1) as a model species for investigating how parasite communities could change with a changing climate. Yellow-necked mice are an important species because they are hosts for many diseases which can be transferred to humans (zoonoses), such as tick-borne encephalitis. Mice will be trapped in the Italian Alps at different altitudes, using altitude as a proxy for measuring climate change: high altitude, where it is cooler and drier, represents the current climate; low altitude, where it is warmer and wetter, represents the future climate as predicted for Northern Europe by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change). The parasite community of the mice will be investigated using fecal egg counts and worm counts in order to determine how climate change could affect the parasitic species of the yellow-necked mouse, which will have implications for human health and disease prevalence.