Project Archive: Badger Social Networks & Bovine Tuberculosis


European badgers in the UK are a primary wildlife reservoir of Mycobacterium bovis, the bacterium that cause bovine tuberculosis (bTB). As a result understanding how badger ecology and behaviour might shape disease spread in badger populations and influence how it might best be managed can make an important contribution to controlling bTB.

Our research uses cutting edge methods for analysing social networks to describe badger social systems and understand how they impact the transmission of disease. We collect data on badger behaviour using GPS trackers and proximity loggers as well as using information collected as part of a long-term mark-recapture study. We then use statistical, epidemiological and individual-based modelling approaches as analytical tools.


Photo: Keith Silk

Our principal aims are to better understand the traits that might drive variation among individuals in their roles in the spread of disease, and to more clearly describe how infection and badger behaviour interact to drive the dynamics of the system.

Some of our recent research has demonstrated potentially important differences between male and female badgers in their role in social connectivity that might contribute to sex differences in epidemiology, identified seasonal variation in daily patterns of social contacts, and made the first attempt to combine direct and indirect contacts between badgers and cattle within a single integrated interaction network.


Research Team

Dr Matthew Silk (University of Exeter)

Professor Robbie McDonald (University of Exeter)

Professor Darren Croft (University of Exeter)

Professor Dave Hodgson (University of Exeter)

Dr Dez Delahay (Animal and Plant Health Agency)

Professor Mike Boots (University of California, Berkeley)

Dr Carly Rozins (University of California, Berkely)