Congratulations to master’s student, Deandra Jones, on the successful defense of her thesis: Ecology of Invasion: Potential for parasite spillover in Abert's squirrels (Sciurus aberti) and endangered Mt. Graham red squirrels (Tamiasciurus fremonti grahame
Jones tested whether the introduction of Abert’s squirrel on Mt. Graham altered parasite loads for the endangered Mt. Graham red squirrel. Abert’s squirrels may have introduced new parasites into the population or may serve as hosts to local parasites that allow the parasite population to increase. Jones found that no spillover occurred for ectoparasites, or parasites living outside of the body, like fleas and ticks. The two species hosted different communities of ectoparasites, some of which are very specialized to their host. Spillover between squirrel species did occur for endoparasites, however. Jones detected nematode species inside the digestive tract of both squirrel species.
Data collected thus far does not indicate any adverse impact of the parasites on the Mt. Graham red squirrel, but long-term studies may be needed to show whether these parasites affect survival or reproduction. Given the endangered status of the Mt. Graham red squirrel, Jones recommends continuing efforts to preserve red squirrel habitat and control the Abert’s squirrel population.
Looking toward her own future, Jones is looking forward to starting the University of Arizona’s Wildlife Conservation and Management Ph.D. Program this Fall 2022. She will be studying black bear ecology with Dr. Michael Bogan and Dr. Javan Bauder in collaboration with the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife.