Signatures of exposure to pollutants and diseases in urban and rural habitats
In bird populations, cities play an important role in the spread of infectious diseases. Host communities in urban environments often differ markedly from communities in rural or natural areas, and are typically dominated by a few very abundant species that are well adapted to city life. This altered community structure can affect pathogen pressure, while the occurrence of specific stressors such as light, sound and pollution can have marked effects on the hosts immune system, also contributing to pathogen pressure. Thus, the prevalence of zoonotic pathogens is expected to differ between urban and rural or natural areas, and an evolutionary shift in both host and pathogens could be confirmed in historical samples.
Feather samples are collected in urban and rural habitats. These samples can serve as validation datasets for the presence of zoonotic viruses and pollutants, respectively through analysis of associated blood, samples and liver and muscle tissue. We will use genomic screening techniques to identify viruses and pollutants in contemporary and historical bird (feather) samples, and where necessary will improve these techniques to compare virus and pollutants incidence between urban and rural areas, in contemporary and historical samples.