Projectfunding in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands a call was launched for IPY-proposals with deadline 18 january 2006. Proposals should be made for the central project and for each position seperately as a more or less independent project. The four projects had each their specific focus on respectively:
 sampling and experimentation
 ecological immunology
 avian influenza
Here you can find an overview of the Dutch contributions to BIRDHEALTH.

Central project
Full proposal as pdf: here
Little is known about spatio-temporal patterns in infections of migratory birds. What is the epidemiology of infections? How much do various infections affect the fitness of the host and how variable is the host defence to battle these infections. In a set of four projects we want to study these questions in arctic breeding birds. Each project tackles a specific aspect, but all projects are linked in an effort to understand co-evolution of pathogens and hosts and the chances of transmission of pathogens to conspecifics or other species.
Loonen, Arctic Center, University of Groningen: post doc position (3y) and technical assistent (2y)
Full proposal as pdf: here
Geographical and temporal variation in health issues in Arctic breeding birds
Recently, there has been a lot of attention on the risk of migratory birds being a vector of diseases to domestic animals and humans. However little is known about the effect of these diseases on the birds themselves. How do birds cope with an infection? How do they reduce the risk of being infected? Will the pathogens survive over a long period? This question is highly relevant for arctic breeding migratory birds. They link remote areas but also go through periods with varying density, before, during and after migration. For some species, the Arctic can be a pathogen low resort during a period of high susceptibility when the animals spread out over the tundra to breed. For other species, the chance of becoming infected during the breeding season might be extremely high due to colonial nesting in high densities. Birds and pathogens have co-evolved and both try to survive. There are many potential strategies for both parties. Pathogens can differ in their effect on behaviour and survival of the infected host. The host might vary the activity of its immune system.
In this project we aim for a basic understanding of parasite-host interaction explaining geographical and temporal variation in both the prevalence of infection and immune system functioning of the host. We will screen individually ringed birds and compare infected animals with uninfected or medicine-treated animals over a wide variety of species and study spatio-temporal variation. This variation will be linked to environmental changes like pollution, global warming and habitat loss.
Piersma, Animal Ecology, University of Groningen: post-doc position
Full proposal as pdf: here
Contrasting breeding investments in a small arctic shorebird: trade-off between breeding effort and fighting disease?
Small shorebirds breeding in the High Arctic have very high thermoregulatory and incubation costs. Sanderlings Calidris alba are known to have a breeding system in which females sometimes lay two clutches of four eggs. The first clutch being incubated by the male, the second by the female herself. The advantage for double-clutching indivliduals is obvious; a higher reproductive succes. However, this breeding strategy also entails substantial costs for both parents. First, the female has to lay an additional set of eggs soon after having laid a first complete clutch. Secondly, two birds have to separately take care of the incubation of a clutch and chick guarding. In the proposed research we wish to investigate the possible relation between immune response and breeding effort at a study site in Northeast Greenland with a known Sanderling population that shows both the single- and the double-clutch strategy. We hypothesise that Sanderlings might be able to make such large investments in reproduction by economising on their immune system in the relatively parasite- and disease-poor High Arctic environment. Only high-quality birds that are free of parasites are expected to be able to down-regulate their immune system. In their wintering habitat in Western Europe and especially tropical Africa, Sanderlings scavenge between decaying organic material and need to maintain high levels of immunity. The contrast in breeding strategies within a single Arctic bird species enables us to gain knowledge on fundamental questions about disease risk and immune function of Arctic shorebirds that spend part of their life in Western European marine habitats and may yield important information on the spread of diseases by migratory birds.
Klaassen, NIOO, Nieuwersluis: PhD student
Full proposal as pdf: here
Arctic breeding waterfowl as vectors for avian influenza viruses
Influenza virus (IV) outbreaks form a major threat to human and animal health and the economy. Various data indicate that Arctic breeding migratory waterfowl, notably geese and swans, are a reservoir and vector for IV. With its dense human population, extensive pig and chicken farming (with increasing outdoor ranging), its many shallow water bodies that attract migratory waterfowl in unparalleled numbers, The Netherlands form a European hot spot for influenza outbreaks in poultry and potential transmission to man. For risk reduction, early recognition and management of outbreaks, the proposed multidisciplinary research initiative will provide critical knowledge on: (1) what species of Arctic breeding waterfowl are carriers of avian IV and how this correlates with specific ecological features of the species, (2) the spatial and temporal variation in IV prevalence among these species, (3) which individuals are most susceptible for IV infection and how it impacts their fitness and (4) the role of Arctic moulting ponds as reservoirs for avian IV. To target these research challenges aimed at elucidating the interactions between Arctic breeding birds and IV, we envisage a multidisciplinary research project covering the fields of bird ecology, virology and epidemiology. Using a flyway approach, IV prevalence and bird fitness and behaviour will be monitored at a high spatial and temporal resolution in various populations of waterfowl.
Heesterbeek, Veterinary Department University of Utrecht: post-doc position
Full proposal as pdf: here
Combining behaviour-based and epidemiological models to identify the role of Arctic breeding migratory waterfowl in the ecology of infectious diseases, notably Avian Influenza
In contrast to expectations of the last century that infections could be brought under control, today we increasingly face threats from new emerging agents, transcending species boundaries, entering new geographic areas but also from well-known agents that turn out to be very persistent, escape immunity, that are difficult to control in outbreaks or that continuously evolve and thus, escape existing treatments. Avian influenza excellently exemplifies these issues: it has repeatedly crossed species-boundaries (e.g. from wild waterfowl to poultry species), continues to escape immunity by frequent mutations and is thus difficult to control in outbreaks. Although it will be impossible to prevent such outbreaks, a fundamental understanding of the origin and spread of influenza viruses (IV) through animal and human populations may play a key role in designing strategies to recognize the threats early and to minimize the risk of outbreaks. Therefore, we aim to combine epidemiological and behaviour-based models and in particular, to shed light on the role of migratory waterfowl in the spread of infectious diseases by successively testing the assumptions of 1) Within-individual processes: Testing consequences of IV infections on individuals, e.g. on reproductive success, mortality; 2) Between-individual processes: What are the population-level consequences and patterns given the assumptions under 1) and transmission rates/ modes (local and individual events)? For both, we will identify the conditions under which IV may persist in a host-population and determine characteristics of the spatio-temporal spread of IV among populations. Thus, combining epidemiology and bird migration in such model will identify key times and places for the spread of infectious diseases as well as sensitive parts in the dynamics of hosts and pathogens and thereby, provide a basis for potential management actions.