Date of Thesis

12-14-2015

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Master of Science

First Advisor

DeeAnn Reeder

Abstract

Characterizing the viruses of known reservoir hosts, such as Pteropodid fruit bats in high-risk geographical areas like South Sudan, is important for understanding the potential for spillover of zoonotic pathogens into humans. Because the movement of pathogens from wildlife to humans is facilitated by anthropogenic activities including habitat disturbance and encroachment, one might expect health status, including virus composition, to vary between bats in intact versus disturbed habitats. This thesis explores the health and viral composition of the little epauletted fruit bat, Epomophorus labiatus, between seasons, sex, and disturbed and undisturbed habitats in South Sudan. Habitat disturbance levels were quantified, health was assessed using blood chemistry variables using a handheld i-STAT system, and liver samples were screened for pan-Herpesviruses and pan-Coronaviruses using PCR. GIS and remote sensing data were then used to map biodiversity hotspots in South Sudan and explore how landcover has changed over the last 30 years in a biologically-rich area. Results show physiological differences between bats from disturbed and undisturbed habitats and bats that were captured in the dry season or from disturbed habitats with less biodiversity were more likely to have coronaviruses. Remote sensing analysis shows that vegetation loss has occurred over the past decade in Kajo Keji County. This research demonstrates how biodiversity loss and landcover changes can influence the virus composition and health of bat communities and the potential spillover of known pathogenic zoonotic viruses while highlighting the need for minimizing human disturbance to natural bat habitats.

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