Congratulations to Sam Mello!
Samantha Mello has successfully defended her Master's Thesis, "The Parasite Diversity of New England Cottontails and their Habitat When Non-Native Species Are Present." Samantha studied ticks and Eimeria, a genus of protozoan endoparasite, in the imperiled New England cottontail and a non-native competitor, the eastern cottontail. The New England cottontail is the only native cottontail rabbit of eastern New York and New England, and has declined drastically due mainly to the loss of its early successional forest habitat. Parasites are a potential concern for the recovery of this species because they have been known to limit populations of mammals especially when they are small and isolated, as is the case for New England cottontails. Moreover, reintroduction of captive-bred rabbits to the wild as well as translocations among sites is part of the conservation strategy for the cottontail, which may inadvertently lead to the spread of parasites. Samantha demonstrated that the presence of invasive vegetation influences tick burdens on New England cottontails, which should be a consideration for both habitat restoration and translocation project. Congratulations to Sam for an excellent capstone to several years of hard work!