Conservation

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B&C Fellow - Calvin Ellis

Texas A&M University - Kingsville – Ph.D. Student in Range and Wildlife Management - Projected to Graduate in 2024
Project Title: Mule Deer Spatial Ecology in the Texas Panhandle: Implications for Chronic Wasting Disease


I grew up in Hoschton, GA, a small just town just outside of Athens, GA. My passion for wildlife was instilled in me at a young age through hunting, fishing, hiking, or any other outdoor activity I could partake in. In December of 2020, I received my bachelor's degree in Wildlife Science from the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia. My experiences and education there further developed my interests in research, wildlife photography, and mentoring. It also steered my career goals towards returning to academia focused on spatial ecology of large mammals and predator-prey ecology. Wildlife has been and always will be near to my heart. If you are looking for me, chances are I am somewhere outside appreciating what we have been given. A dream career would entail returning to academia as a professor located in the Rocky Mountain West region. Ideally, my research would focus on large mammal spatial ecology, particularly ungulates, along with some predator - prey ecology. Mentoring future wildlife conservationists is something I have uncovered a passion for and a professor position would allow me to fulfill both my research and mentoring passions.


Mule Deer Spatial Ecology in the Texas Panhandle: Implications for Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease has been detected in 260 captive or free-range cervids in 14 Texas counties including a free-range mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in Lubbock County in February of 2021. There are two CWD positive counties in the Texas Panhandle, Dallam, and Hartley. The Canadian River passes through this region, into New Mexico, a state with limited CWD surveillance, and has large potential to serve as a wildlife movement corridor. With undetected prevalence in the surrounding counties and limited surveillance in the neighboring states, potential for undetected disease spread is high. Native rangeland in the Texas Panhandle is often altered via agriculture and energy development. Row-crop farming could produce areas of ungulate congregation, thereby enhancing disease risk. We selected this region for our study because of a possible movement corridor, unknown prevalence of CWD, and unidentified effects of anthropogenic influence on mule deer space-use. We GPS-collared 30 juvenile mule deer in Oldham County, located along the Canadian River, to study movement and dispersal patterns. We will also use a previously collected five-year dataset of mule deer movement to examine site fidelity and fine-scale selection in crop fields in this region. Determining fine-scale selection in fields is important in disease management to determine why these fields are attractive to mule deer and predict potential fields that could congregate ungulates. With CWD becoming an increasing issue across Texas, understanding movement and space-use of susceptible species should be of primary concern.

 

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