Research assistant presented research on the design of primers for the study of genetic variation in the Thrill Seeking Gene of Illinois white-tailed deer.

Evan London presented his research entitled “Variation in the Thrill Seeking Gene (DRD4) of White-tailed Deer (O. virginianus)”at the Annual Meeting of The Illinois Chapter of The Wildlife Society (ICTWS) showcase at the University of Illinois at Springfield, Student Union, in April 2019.

Evan has been working on designing and validating primers that can be used to study genetic variation of the gene coding for DRD4 in white-tailed deer. Genetic variation within DRD4 gene could potentially be an underlying factor in some behaviors of deer, such as automobile collision, migration patterns, the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, urban habitation, etc. Great job Evan!



Undergraduate student presents work at regional annual meeting of the Wildlife Society (April 14-16, 2019)

Congratulations to undergraduate students Kelsey Martin and Roshni Mathur who did an amazing job presenting posters at the Annual Meeting of The Illinois Chapter of The Wildlife Society (ICTWS) showcase at the University of Illinois at Springfield, Student Union.


Roshni Mathur presented results on the exposure of raccoons and opossums to seven Leptospira Spp., and their potential role as host reservoirs on her poster entitled “Do opossums and raccoons shed Leptospira?”







Kelsey Martin presented how to identify key differences between bovine and avian tuberculosis in white-tailed deer, focusing on how to detect signs of disease and how to mitigate transmission to humans during field dressing on her poster entitled “Differences between Bovine and Avian Tuberculosis in white-tailed deer”


Undergraduate student presents work on fetal data at regional research symposium

Two students in our lab recently presented posters at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference that was held here at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in March 2017. Undergraduate student Mario Barenas presented a combination of laboratory procedures and subsequent research results entitled “Fetal data reveal reproductive trends in white-tailed deer (O. virginianus)”.  Great job Mario!

Common misconceptions about CWD management addressed

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease similar to mad cow disease. CWD affects members of the deer, elk and moose families. Unfortunately, this disease is 100% fatal and it is easily transferred between individual deer and it remains in the environment for long periods of time. As the disease spreads, more and more states are faced with difficult decisions pertaining to an effective management strategy. Sharpshooting appears to be the most effective control method, but hunters become concerned with the method. Therefore, our team addressed some common misconceptions about CWD management in Illinois.

Illinois is a positive example for chronic wasting disease management

News reports Illinois is a good example for CWD management

News reports Illinois is a good example for CWD management

Illinois has been managing chronic wasting disease for over 10 years.  The first case of chronic wasting disease was detected in 2002.  The state has been tireless in its efforts to slow the spread of the disease which is 100% fatal in white-tailed deer.  As the disease spreads to new states, like Michigan, managers are forced to select and deploy a management program in an effort to control the disease among their valuable herds of white-tailed deer.  Research that our team published in 2014 compared the effectiveness of Illinois’ disease management program to Wisconsin’s disease management program.  We found that when both states practiced similar management strategies, the prevalence of chronic wasting disease was similar at approximately 1%.  However, when Wisconsin modified their management, prevalence increased in the following years to 5%.  In contrast, the prevalence in Illinois remained stable at 1%.  Now as managers in states like Michigan make crucial decisions on how best to manage, they can look to Illinois as an example of success.  Our research provides the scientific evidence necessary to support their claim to success.

Read the news article here and access the research publication here.

What do otters do at latrines?

River otters at a latrine

River otters at a latrine

We recently completed a study to answer that question.  As it turns out, river otters do a lot at latrines. They groom themselves, they groom each other, sniff things, dig and wrestle.  Sometimes they visit in groups but more often they visit a latrine on their own.  We developed and used a behavioral ethogram to describe behaviors that river otters display at latrines.  We used trail cameras to capture river otter behavior and used that information to determine the most common behaviors, group size, time of day that otters prefer to visit latrines and visitation rates over the course of a year.

Check out the full study here!  Be sure to look at the supplementary information where you can view actual video footage of each river otter behavior type (for example, look at this video of river otters wrestling!).

A special thanks to our co-author, Katie Monick.  Katie completed all of the field work for this project as an undergraduate James Scholar in Animal Sciences.

Sharing Research at the Annual Meeting of the Illinois Chapter of the Wildlife Society

Undergraduates from the Novakofski & Mateus Collaborative Labs present at the annual meeting of the Wildlife Society

Undergraduates from the Novakofski & Mateus Collaborative Labs present at the annual meeting of the Wildlife Society

Our lab participated in the Annual Meeting of the Illinois Chapter of the Wildlife Society in April. Our undergraduate and technician lab members presented two poster presentations on work that we are currently doing in our lab. Lauren Frisbie, Gretchen Anchor and Noelle Thompson collaborated with senior members of our lab to present “Chronic wasting disease tissue sampling”. Adam Deeke and Megan Britton also collaborated with senior lab members to present “Genetic marker set variation and paternity assignment success in white-tailed deer”. Check out our Presentations page to see the rest of the research that we shared at TWS!

Expanding research on bats using trash from collaborating labs!

Small tissue biopsies are collected from the thin wing membrane of bats

Small tissue biopsies are collected from the thin wing membrane of bats

Our lab recently published a study that indicates the usefulness of discarded tissues for genetic research. White-nose syndrome is sweeping through the North American bat population. The disease is caused by a fungus that is thought to prematurely wake bats from hibernation. Researchers enter bat hibernacula and collect swabs and tissue biopsies for white-nose syndrome testing. As you can imagine, researchers want to minimize their own disturbance to the bats so that they remain as strong and as healthy as possible. As a result, very few, very small tissue biospies are collected. The tissue samples are cultured in laboratories for a period of time, and typically discarded. We tested whether we could extract and amplify DNA after the culturing process. Our results indicate that it is possible! We are sharing this information with the community of scientists that collecting tissue samples so that we can work together to study white-nose syndrome and the genetics of bats.

Access the full publication here.

Hot off the press! Our latest publication shares an innovative way to teach biosafey to students

New publication for educators

Our lab recently published an innovative method to teach biosafety protocols to college students.  The article entitled “The scene of the crime: classroom integration of biosafety, microscopy, and forensics” was published in the Nov-Dec issue of The American Biology Teacher journal.  Our team developed and implemented a unique teaching module for our Animal Science 224 class.  The students have the opportunity to work with animals on farms and our crime scene style investigation helps students identify breaches in biosafety protocols.  The addition of this module to our course has helped students understand their role in maintaining the health of the animals at the University farms.

Click here to read the abstract!