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Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Dr. Brianna Beechler awarded MAF fellowship

April 12th, 2011

Dr. Brianna Beechler with darted African buffalo.

Brianna Beechler, a PhD student in the Jolles lab in Biomedical Sciences, was awarded a Morris Animal Foundation Fellowship to support her work on disease interactions in African buffalo. The fellowship, worth over $80,000, will provide her with stipend and tuition for two years.

After completing her DVM degree at OSU in the spring of 2008, Brianna joined the Jolles lab in the fall. Her doctoral dissertation research in Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa, is investigating how an invasive disease, bovine tuberculosis (BTB), affects the dynamics of a native infection, Rift Valley Fever (RVF), in African buffalo.

Calf following darted mother.

Bovine tuberculosis, caused by Mycobacterium bovis, was introduced to Kruger National Park in the 80s and is spreading northwards in the park through the buffalo population. A detailed understanding of the BTB invasion in Kruger Park is particularly urgent due to the creation of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, linking national parks (Kruger in South Africa, Gonarezhou in Zimbabwe and Limpopo in Mozambique) and opening the previously closed Kruger ecosystem to animal migrations across a much larger area. Both M. bovis and Rift Valley Fever are capable of infecting multiple host species, including cattle and humans. Outbreaks of RVF occur frequently around Kruger National Park, with human and livestock deaths a common problem. Movement of BTB in buffalo to currently unaffected areas will potentially put rural livelihoods, as well as more fragile wildlife species at risk. This concern has motivated research on BTB in African buffalo; yet how BTB may affect RVF infection dynamics remains unknown.

It is possible that infection with bovine tuberculosis may allow for increased incidence of infection with RVF, possibly increasing the spread of RVF from buffalo to livestock and humans. By examining RVF and BTB dynamics in their main wildlife host, Bree hopes to contribute to understanding and potentially mitigating the risks that these diseases pose to wildlife, livestock and people.

MacVicar Scholar Award presentation

Dr. Beechler is the 2010 recipient of the MacVicar Scholar Award. She will give her lecture on Wednesday, April 20, at 3 p.m. in 102 Magruder Hall. The title is “Disease invasion, multiparasite interactions and conservation: Rift Valley Fever and bovine tuberculosis in African buffalo in Kruger National Park, South Africa.” There will be a reception.

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