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Is habitat quality a key factor in determining whether koalas develop chlamydial disease? Robbins, Amy.. University of the Sunshine Coast, 29 Jul 2018. Experiment. doi: 10.18258/11690
Our project will analyse both historical and new swab samples collected from koalas at four sites in South East Queensland where populations are undergoing longitudinal monitoring and intensive veterinary management. Habitat quality varies between the sites and ranges from urbanised to rural environments with different soil types and levels of disturbance and rainfall. As part of their intensive veterinary management, koalas are recaptured every 6 months for a thorough physical examination and to allow for the collection of swab samples from the ocular, urogenital and rectal sites to detect Chlamydia infections. Koalas are fitted with tracking devices at these veterinary examinations and are regularly monitored in the field. If signs of disease are detected koalas are recaptured for treatment and thorough clinical records are compiled. We've been collecting this data for the last 5 years but this project will allows us to start analysing the hundreds of samples we've accumulated!
Science doesn't always run smoothly, particularly when it's combined with working with animals! We've recently started recruiting and monitoring koalas at a new site and they've been living up to their cryptic nature and very difficult to find. We have an excellent, highly experienced field team though so hopefully our next searching trip is more successful.
As this project is part of my larger PhD project, some of the basic data analysis such as disease scoring clinical records from cases of chlamydial disease is currently underway so we already have an idea about disease prevalence in the populations undergoing long-term monitoring (yet to be established in the new population above). The big task from this project will be processing the swabs we've collected from these koalas for Chlamydia detection so that we can determine the prevalence of infections in these populations.
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