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.
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.
- Silk M.J., Weber N.L., Steward L.C., Hodgson D.J., Boots M., Croft D.P., Delahay R.J. and McDonald R.A. 2018. Contact networks structured by sex underpin sex-specific epidemiology of tuberculosis infection. Ecology Letters, 21 , 309-318
- Silk M.J., Drewe J.A., Delahay R.J., Weber N., Steward L.C., Wilson-Aggarwal J., Boots M., Hodgson D.J., Croft D.P., McDonald R.A. 2018. Quantifying direct and indirect contacts for the potential transmission of infection between species using a multilayer contact network. Behaviour, doi: 10.1163/1568539X-00003493
- Silk M.J., Weber N., Steward L.C., Delahay R.J., Croft D.P., Hodgson D.J., Boots M. & McDonald R.A. 2017. Seasonal variation in daily patterns of social contacts in the European badger Meles meles. Ecology and Evolution, doi:10.1002/ece3.3402
- Silk M.J., Croft D.P., Delahay R.J., Hodgson D.J. Boots M. & McDonald R.A. 2017. The application of statistical network models in disease research. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 8, 1026-1041.
- Silk M.J., Croft D.P., Delahay R.J., Hodgson D.J., Boots M., Weber N. & McDonald R.A. 2017. Using social network measures in wildlife disease ecology, epidemiology and management. BioScience, 67, 245-257.
- McDonald J.L.*, Robertson A.* & Silk M.J.* 2017. Wildlife disease ecology from the individual to the population: insights from a long‐term study of a naturally‐infected European badger population. Journal of Animal Ecology, doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12743 (*all authors contributed equally)
- Silk M.J., & Fisher D.N. 2017. Understanding animal social structure: exponential random graph models in animal behaviour research. Animal Behaviour, 132, 137-146.
- Silk M.J. 2017. The next steps in the study of missing individuals in networks: a comment on Smith et al. (2017): Social Networks, doi:10.1016/j.socnet.2017.05.002