Bighorn sheep researchers launch outreach website

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- To engage and inform the public, the Bighorn Sheep Disease Research Consortium -- including researchers from Penn State's Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences -- has launched bighornhealth.org.

Bighornhealth.org is aimed at communicating to a diverse audience groundbreaking science led by the consortium, an interdisciplinary group of researchers that includes Huck Institutes scientists Raina Plowright, Peter Hudson and Kezia Manlove. Consortium members also include Frances Cassirer at Idaho Fish and Game, Thomas Besser at Washington State University and collaborators at the state wildlife agencies of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Plowright, Hudson and Manlove are currently conducting field studies of bighorn sheep pneumonia that build on a long-term dataset compiled by the consortium.

"We created bighornhealth.org to disseminate our work to an audience that includes teachers, scientists, policymakers and members of the public who are interested in wildlife and wildlife diseases," said Plowright, a Huck Institutes research associate. "The website will contain lesson plans and other curricula for teachers to explain basic concepts about wildlife disease ecology to students of different ages, and one of our field assistants -- Chad Dotson -- will help to test these lessons and ideas at a school in Enterprise, Oregon, very close to some of the herds being studied.

"When it comes to wildlife, there are a lot of stakeholders, and we wanted our research to be accessible to all of them -- hunters, wildlife managers, educators, whoever has an interest in bighorn sheep or ecological principles. This project involves a lot of disciplines, but science shouldn't be over anyone's head, so long as we can communicate our ideas clearly."

Hudson, who is Huck Institutes director and Willaman Professor of Life Sciences, noted that there has been "much confusion" about the management of pneumonia in bighorn sheep.

"We hope this new website can provide the scientific evidence that will help wildlife managers think about and decide on management strategies to help this iconic animal," he said.

Bighornhealth.org was created with funds granted to Penn State principal investigators Plowright and Hudson by the Morris Animal Foundation.

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Last Updated February 27, 2014