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Shannon C. Waters

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Tortoises are susceptible to a wide variety of environmental stressors, and the influence of human disturbances on health and survival of tortoises is difficult to detect. As an addition to current diagnostic methods for desert tortoises, we have developed the first leukocyte gene transcription biomarker panel for the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), enhancing the ability to identify specific environmental conditions potentially linked to declining animal health. Blood leukocyte transcript profiles have the potential to identify physiologically stressed animals in lieu of clinical signs. For desert tortoises, the gene transcript profile included a combination of immune or detoxification response genes with...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: EcoHealth
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The analysis of blood constituents is a widely used tool to aid in monitoring of animal health and disease. However, classic blood diagnostics (i.e. hematologic and plasma biochemical values) often do not provide sufficient information to determine the state of an animal’s health. Field studies on wild tortoises and other reptiles have had limited success in drawing significant inferences between blood diagnostics and physiological and immunological condition. However, recent research using gene transcription profiling in the threatened Mojave desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) has proved useful in identifying immune or physiologic responses and overall health. To improve our understanding of health and immune...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Conservation Physiology
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Habitat disturbance from development, resource extraction, off-road vehicle use, and energy development ranks highly among threats to desert systems worldwide. In the Mojave Desert, United States, these disturbances have promoted the establishment of nonnative plants, so that native grasses and forbs are now intermixed with, or have been replaced by invasive, nonnative Mediterranean grasses. This shift in plant composition has altered food availability for Mojave Desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii), a federally listed species. We hypothesized that this change in forage would negatively influence the physiological ecology, immune competence, and health of neonatal and yearling tortoises. To test this, we monitored...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Ecosphere
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The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill damaged a wide range of natural resources, including intertidal communities, and post-spill studies demonstrated acute and chronic exposure and injury to an array of species. Standard toxicological methods to evaluate petroleum contaminants have assessed tissue burdens, with fewer assays providing indicators of health or physiology, particularly when contaminant levels are low and chronic. Marine mussels are a ubiquitous and crucial component of the nearshore environment, and new genomic technologies exist to quantify molecular responses of individual mussels to stimuli, including exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). We used gene-based assays of exposure and physiological...
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Detecting populations of rare or cryptic species is essential for their conservation. For species like giant gartersnakes (Thamnophis gigas), conventional survey methods can be expensive and inefficient. These sampling difficulties might be overcome by modern techniques that detect deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) shed by organisms into the environment (eDNA). We evaluated the efficacy of detecting giant gartersnake eDNA in water samples from the laboratory and at locations with known giant gartersnake populations in the Sacramento Valley of California, and failed to detect giant gartersnake DNA in most laboratory and all field samples. Aspects of giant gartersnake biology—such as highly keratinized skin and spending...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Open-File Report
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