Run-off from terrestrial environments into aquatic habitats can affect host-parasite dynamics by increasing host susceptibility, as well as decreasing the condition of infected versus non-infected hosts (tolerance). Many studies have considered heavy metals and pesticides; however, road salt is a very common freshwater pollutant. Despite its presence in many Canadian water bodies, almost nothing is known regarding the potential effects of road salts on host susceptibility to parasites. By exposing larval amphibians to low and high salt concentrations reflecting a naturally-occurring range, we can determine how this affects their resistance to common helminth (worm) parasites, as well as possible mechanism(s) for observed effects. This is critical because many aquatic animals may also experience altered disease susceptibility/tolerance in the presence of high salt concentrations, making this environmental factor a potentially important target for policy and management efforts.
Principal Investigator: Janet Koprivnikar