ICTWS Meeting – 2022

Congrats to our fantastic group of undergraduate students, graduate students, and lab members for their presentations at The 58th Annual Meeting of Illinois Chapter of The Wildlife Society, April 10-12.

Poster Presentations

Undergraduate Students
Rachel E. Lupas


A DNA Sequencing Strategy for Studying Novelty-seeking Behavior in White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)




Nora Ryan


Shadow of the Prion Protein in Chronic Wasting Disease Wild White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)



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CWD Management in Illinois: Improving Turnaround Time

By Nelda A. Rivera, Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, William M. Brown.

“Some advantages of including the ELISA test are that ELISA uses fresh tissue, eliminating exposure to Formaldehyde for those taking and processing the samples. Furthermore, fresh samples can be shipped frozen and stored in less expensive containers (e.g., Whirl-Pak bags). Thus, they require less storage space and, therefore, reduce shipping costs. In addition, ELISA typically has a 4-day turnaround for results depending on the capacity of the diagnostic laboratory.”

During FY 2021, most of the samples received were processed within the first two weeks after the kill date. Therefore, there was a higher percentage of all the samples with completed test results by weeks 10 to 12 (Figure 3; Table 2).

CHAMPAIGN, IL – During the fiscal year 2021, the IDNR surveillance management program—in partnership with Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the University of Missouri Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory—, improved the turnaround time of results of CWD by using a combination of ELISA test (for large-scale hunter harvest surveillance) and Immunohistochemistry (for “special permit surveillance” from IDNR and “suspect deer surveillance”).


Read the whole story at the Outdoor Illinois Wildlife Journal, here.


Are blood parasites found in resident and migratory birds in Illinois?

By Kelsey Martin, Nelda A. Rivera,  Nohra E. Mateus-Pinilla [PDF]


Parasitic infections in birds are a significant threat to the health and conservation of avian species. Avian haemosporidian parasites are blood parasites found globally in birds. These blood parasites have a non-specific, broad range of avian hosts and are transmitted by biting vectors that participate in the parasites’ life cycle (Figure 1). For example, Leucocytozoon parasites are transmitted to birds by black flies, and mosquitoes transmit Plasmodium parasites (responsible for malaria) and Haemoproteus parasites. Similar to human malaria, infected birds may develop malaria-like disease,



What is it? Who get it? and How it spreads?

By Roshni Mathur, Nelda A. Rivera,  Nohra E. Mateus-Pinilla [PDF]



You need to know that Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the bacteria Leptospira. The Leptospira bacteria are spread through infected animals’ urine, which can get into water or soil and survive there for weeks to months.1 The number of new cases of Leptospirosis has increased in humans and canines across North America. You also need to know that Leptospirosis in humans may cause mild flu-like symptoms, such as chills and headaches. However, when the bacteria affect organs, such as the liver, lungs, heart, and kidneys, it causes a more severe reaction that can lead to organ failure.2 The most severe Leptospirosis is commonly known as Weil’s disease in humans.3 Animals may suffer from a subclinical infection with mild symptoms to a more advanced condition involving multiple-organ failure and subsequent death.

Leptospirosis’s clinical signs and symptoms will depend on the animal species infected and the type of Leptospira serovar affecting them (a serovar is a variation in the Leptospira bacteria, also known as bacterial strain). Muscle pain, pancreatitis, uveitis (eye inflammation), dysuria (pain while urinating), hemolytic anemia, or respiratory disease are some of the clinical problems developed by animals. Leptospirosis in pregnant animals may result in abortion, stillbirths, weak newborns, or


From their environment to their behavior

Lessons learned from Illinois’ river otters.

By Nelda A. Rivera,  Nohra Mateus-Pinilla [PDF]


A river otter brings lunch to the latrine site. Photograph adapted from Mateus-Pinilla laboratory©


River otters are at the top of the trophic food chain, with a varied diet that, for Illinois’ otters, usually includes multiple fish species, mollusks, crayfish, and amphibians—as found by Satterthwaite-Phillips and collaborators in their fatty acid analysis of otter’s adipose tissue conducted in 2014 (Satterthwaite-Phillips et al. 2014). Other reports also indicate that river otters may pray on reptiles (including snakes and turtles), insects and their larvae, and occasionally other mammals and birds.

The variation in the diet of river otters makes them excellent biomonitors—organisms that accumulate in their tissues environmental contaminants—, providing quantitative information about the environment’s quality in specific areas and over time. In Illinois, another study conducted by Carpenter et al. (2014) identified organochlorine pesticides such as dieldrin and DDE (a Continue reading “From their environment to their behavior”

One Female Deer Can Have Multiple Fetuses, How Many and Why Should We Care?

By Yi-Ying Tung, Nelda A. Rivera, Kelsey Martin, Evan London, Nohra Mateus-Pinilla [PDF]


Deer at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site near Collinsville, IL. Pictures provided by Brian L. Stauffer.


In 2015, around 6 million deer were harvested during the US’s legal hunting season, which is the same number as the total estimated deer population in the US and Canada combined in 1948 (Barlett 1949; QDMA, 2017). With the increasing white-tailed deer population in the Midwest region, carrying capacity—the resource availability to sustain a species population without causing environmental degradation of the land—is critical to the deer health. As it turns out, female pregnancy rates and reproductive characteristics are associated with the number of resources in the habitat available to the white-tailed deer population (Roseberry and Woolf, 1998).

The study, Reproductive Characteristics of Female White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the Midwestern USA (Green et al. 2017), helps us understand the tight and complicated relationships between female white-tailed deer and their fetuses. The evide

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Adjusting to these ‘ever-changing times’

By Rachel Lupas


“My training in this lab makes me more conscious of the proper ways to deal with infectious biological material, an invaluable benefit during COVID-19. “

Lupas processes a tissue sample for analysis.
Lupas processes a tissue sample for analysis. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

CHAMPAIGN, IL – Inspired by the challenges we are all confronting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, undergraduate student Rachel Lupas shares her experiences as a biosafety level two epidemiology laboratory member. Rachel is and undergraduate student and member of the Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory led by Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla.

Read the whole story at the Illinois New Bureau website, here.

IDNR Announces Closure of CWD Check Stations for 2020 Firearm Deer Season

SPRINGFIELD, IL – In response to rising positivity rates of COVID-19 and in an effort to help ensure the health and safety of Illinois hunters and Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) staff, the IDNR today announced the closure of all Deer Check Stations during the upcoming firearm deer hunting seasons, slated for Nov. 20-22 and Dec. 3-6, 2020. For more information please visit the IDNR website, here.

“Deer hunters, statewide, are encouraged to allow samples to be taken for chronic wasting disease (CWD) sampling from adult deer they harvest.”


CWD SAMPLING VENDORS: The following locations are serving as CWD sampling stations, taking samples from entire deer or deer heads from October 1, 2020 thru Jan. 17, 2021 [CWD Sampling Vendors]

CWD HEAD DROP-OFF STATIONS: The following sites are serving as self-serve drop-off sites where hunters can fill out a sample submission card and leave adult deer heads [CWD Head Drop-off stations]


Here is a complete list of CWD Sampling Locations.

For more information about the Hunt Illinois program, visit the website here.

Test results will be posted by hunter phone number on the IDNR website at: http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/programs/CWD/Pages/TestResults.aspx

A Genetic Key to CWD Management?

By Jacob E. Wessels, Nelda A. Rivera, Adam Brandt, Yasuko Ishida, Alfred Roca, Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, Jan Novakofski.

“They found that some regions of Illinois had somewhat higher proportions of genetically protected deer. This genetic advantage does not ensure that a deer is entirely resistant to CWD. Still, the two types of protective DNA sequences could elicit a high level of protection, suggesting that specific areas may see a lower prevalence of CWD in the population due to this genetic advantage.”

Differences in genetic vulnerability to CWD have been studied in multiple deer populations, such as the endangered Florida Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) and the threatened Columbian white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus leucurus). Perrin-Stowe and collaborators (2020) found that “Key deer may be less genetically susceptible to CWD” when compared to Columbian white-tailed deer and other mainland white-tailed deer populations. Photo by Marc Averette. Male deer in the Florida Keys.

CHAMPAIGN, IL – When talking about infectious diseases, are there advantages or disadvantages associated with our genes? And how does this translate to prion diseases? In this article, the authors describe how by examining the Prion protein gen, researchers have been able to identify protective DNA sequences, with potential genetic advantage to CWD in some populations of Illinois white-tailed deer.

Read the whole story at the Outdoor Illinois Wildlife Journal, here.

Celebrating Our Diversity

By Yi-Ying Tung

“Today is an ordinary day, but it’s filled with heartwarming lessons. Our differences don’t make us feel distant from one another. Instead they help us grow closer together and become stronger every day.”

Lab team members meet online. They include, left to right, top to bottom: Daniel Raudabaugh, Kelsey Martin, Jacob Wessels, Yi-Ying Tung, Evan London, Roshni Mathur, Rachel Lupas, Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, Jake Putty, Hayden Hedman, Shannon Callahan, Kaylie Dyer, Dr. Jan Novakofski, Spencer Stirewalt and Dr. Nelda Rivera. Image courtesy Rachel Lupas

CHAMPAIGN, IL – Undergraduate student and James Scholar, Yi-Ying Tung, shares her experiences as a member of multidisciplinary and multicultural research labs. She works for Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla and Dr. Jan Novakofski at the Novakofski & Mateus Chronic Wasting Disease Collaborative Labs and the Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Lab. Yi-Ying is taking part in a project that explores the transmission of chronic wasting disease from mother to offspring white-tailed deer.

Read the whole story at the Illinois New Bureau website, here.