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Auburn University led research team awarded a generous grant to explore impacts of wild pigs pathogen transmission through shared water sources

AUBURN, Ala. (EETV)- Auburn University doctoral grad student, Elizabeth Bradley, and professor of wetland biogeochemistry/ environmental health, Graeme Lockaby, were provided a $415,000 grant to proceed with their research on the impact wild pigs have on water quality. This Auburn University staff-run research project, “Impacts of Wild Pigs on Water Quality and Pathogen Transmission in Water,” was recently awarded a grant to tredge forward, from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This protection service protects animal health, animal welfare, and regulates plant health across the nation.

The Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences serves as a backbone for Alabama’s natural resources related enterprises. This particular school, within the University, concentrates on producing an upcoming generation of young professionals prepared to go forth to lead change initiatives that improve the social, environmental and economic well-being of citizens of Alabama and the nation at large. Elizabeth Bradley, a grad student in this department, and co-principal investigator of this research study, grew up in the Alabama wiregrass region. This region, trailing to the Florida Panhandle, is known for its native ‘aristida stricta’ plant but also for it’s agricultural biodiversity and the critical threats that accompany an area so rich in natural resources. Wild pigs are an invasive species in this region of Alabama. These wild pigs demand a whopping $1.5 billion in damages and control costs annually posing a “significant threat to agriculture and natural resources in the U.S. where the sale of agricultural commodities - particularly cattle and calves- generated around $5.8 billion in 2018,” Bradley explains. Despite these hard facts, there has been very little research conducted to further investigate this threat. This gap in knowledge lit the spark that fueled Bradley’s passion for the project. Her dissertation has not only been one of “trailblazing” but one of interesting revelation as well, exposing that 87 percent of pathogens carried by these roaming wild pigs continue to contribute to disease in humans, wildlife, livestock and poultry.

Dean Janaki Alavalapati emphasized the importance of this research, and how it’s been able to bloom as a result of Dr. Graeme Lockaby’s support in aiding Elizabeth Bradley unveil longstanding answers to the best way to manage wild pigs in Alabama/ transmission of pathogens through this invasive species. After the tedious process of drawing up numerous grant proposals, the opportunity arose for an agency interested in the potential spread of disease and that is when this research study was able to hit the ground running.

As more evidence is accumulated this research is likely to lead to significant improvements in the way wild pigs are managed, posing as a major accomplishment not just for the Auburn University led team but for those in the scientific community nationwide.