Molecular approaches in wildlife disease ecology help disentangle complex processes, whether the focus is on the pathogenic agents and host populations.
Host -> Pathogen On the one side, host community composition, population structure, and connectivity drive disease dynamics including transmission, epidemic emergence, and spatial spread of pathogens. Here genetic data is particularly useful in discerning basic population parameters such as size and turnover, and in determining contact rates through estimating pairwise relationships or population connectivity patterns.
Pathogen -> Host On the other side, pathogens can impact both the ecology and evolution of host populations. Genetic data are useful in tracking impacts including declines in population size or reproductive success, and in evaluating disease resistance, or fitness impacts leading to disease-driven natural selection.
2012 Robinson, SJ, MD Samuel, CJ Johnson, J Aitken, M Adams. Emerging prion disease drives host selection in a wildlife population. Ecological Applications (22) 1050–1059.
2012 Robinson, SJ, MD Samuel, KI O’Rourke, CJ Johnson. The role of PRNP genetics in chronic wasting disease of wild cervids. PRION (6) 153-162.
2012 Robinson, SJ, RD Walrath, TR VanDeelen, KC Ver Cauteren. Genetic measures confirm familial relationships and strengthen study design. The Wildlife Society Bulletin (36) 609-614.