Response to parasitism and dispersal in high arctic seabirds

The projects aims at a better understanding of the response of colonial bird host, like seabirds, to the presence of parasites, and of the role of dispersal in the dynamics of ectoparasites. The study involves the combination of field surveys, population genetics methods and experiments. Field surveys unable to gather information on the presence of ticks and other ectoparasites in relation to different characteristics of the sampled sites and to collect ticks and DNA samples from hosts to address questions using population genetics methods. Such a survey will be carried out again this year on the Black-legged kittiwake colony of the southeastern part of Kongsfjord, near Ny Alesund. Moreover, in this same colony blood samples have been taken on Black-legged kittiwakes in order to carry out immunological assays to compare serological status to other colonies of the Norwegian Arctic where high level of infestation by ticks are recorded, and to get baseline information for an experiment to be carried out on this species in this location. The experiment, to be carried out over 2002 and 2003, is consisting in vaccinating a group of female kittiwakes against an inactivated microparasite in order to test whether individuals of such a population would transmit efficiently antibodies to their chicks via the egg and whether this transfer of protective antibodies would differ among birds of different qualities. Such a study has implications for the understanding of the ecology host-parasite interactions and the epidemiology of vector born disease in arctic seabirds.