It has been pointed that land-use modification (e.g. habitat fragmentation) is one of the main causes of population connectivity loss (gene flow), species home ranges reduction, and therefore biodiversity loss. However, contrary to what was mentioned previously, different species take advantage of this land-use modification, expanding its home ranges and population sizes. These species populations' expansions can lead to economic problems associated with crop damages (because of the generalist habits of these species), but also it has been associated with the emergence and expansion of diseases harmful to human health. Different approaches are used to identify possible pandemic sources, however because the spread of diseases is inherently a spatial process often embedded in complex landscapes the use of geographic information systems coupled with statistics and landscape ecology tools has been proposed as an important tool to evaluate the possible routes of disease dispersion. In addition to the previous, the use of genetic tools in a landscape genetics perspective can elucidate the mechanisms that underlie the basic ecological processes that drive infectious disease dynamics and help understand the linkage between spatially dependent population processes and the geographic distribution of genetic variation within both hosts and parasites. Thus, the genetic information of hosts and parasites coupled to their ecological interactions can lead to insights for predicting patterns of disease emergence, spread and control. Here we aim to: i) use landscape ecology tools to identify barriers and corridors of the capybara in order to predict the possible spread routes of the Brazilian spotted fever (BSF), which is hosted by the capybara ii) estimate functional connectivity of the BSF disease host using landscape genetics approaches and iii) test for adaptive selection (outlier loci) at a genome level, comparing endemic and non-endemic BSF areas, and test for possible correlation of specific alleles at these loci with biotic and environmental factors using a landscape genomics approach.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: