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Since 2007, Dr. Jonathan Conard, assistant professor of biology, has conducted research regarding the transfer of chronic wasting disease in deer. The equivalent of mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease is a neurological, and eventually fatal, disease in deer. CWD has not been shown to be transmissible to humans. The Sterling College faculty member’s work was designed to study social groups of deer to determine how the disease spreads and to provide information for prevention initiatives.
The rapid spread of the disease is of concern to game wardens, scientists and hunters because of the decline in the deer population in the plains. Chronic wasting disease is spread by contact or ingesting a certain protein in feces deposits in the soil that remains infectious for years.
Based in Quivera Wildlife Reserve near Hudson, Kan., Conard’s research studied one of the most densely populated areas by deer in the state. Students and faculty from Sterling College, as well as Kansas State University, worked together to trap the deer and put tracking signals on them to study movements and social groupings. The researchers consulted with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to keep their study focused on information that officials at the state level were seeking, such as the movement of the deer population and social interactions.
Current students who have been highly involved in the research are Leonore Enfield of Raymond, Kan., Tyler Wise of Clearwater, Kan., and Ian Sparks of Winterset, Iowa. Alumni Adrick Miller ’06, Brian Bristol ’10 and Ray Smith ’10 were also involved during their time at Sterling.
Many of the results of the research, as well as the process for retrieving the data, can be seen in a video on the KDWPT website.
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