"When we look at their numbers over time, they continue to decline 28 years later," Gillespie said. "The red colobus numbers declined at first but are now recovering. The black-and-white colobus, perhaps due to a release of competition, have increased in the logged forests."
Because the two colubus species primarily eat leaves, it is believed that they can adapt more easily to disruptions in their habitat, he said.
Gillespie initiated the research as an EPA fellow and doctoral student at the University of Florida. He continues the work at Illinois to better understand the interplay between habitat disturbance and primate conservations and health in Uganda. He is collaborating with veterinary pathobiologist Tony Goldberg and other researchers at Illinois, where state-of-the-art facilities and faculty expertise are uniquely suited for studying disease emergence, zoonotic diseases and the consequences of land-use changes.
In August, Gillespie will become the first director of the new Earth & Society Initiative on Emerging Disease & Ecosystem Health at Illinois. The initiative coordinates a diverse assemblage of the university's centers, programs, laboratories and individuals whose current interests focus on the interface between emerging infectious diseases, anthropogenic environmental change and conservation.
The researchers have monitored the three species, gathering data immediately after logging, 12 years later and again 28 years after the logging ended.
"We know land-use change is affecting wildlife species," Gillespie said. "We know that there is a conservation issue. It's been difficult to understand what is taking place. No one had really looked at how parasites and disease might be affecting this relationship. We were surprised to find dramatic patterns across the board, where the species of primates doing poorly in logged areas had a much higher prevalence of