Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit

The WCWRU was established in 1972 to facilitate cooperation between the partners and to conduct programs of research and education related to fish and wildlife resource management. The major objectives of the WCWRU are:

  1. conduct and direct research related to the solution of problems of mutual concern related to wildlife and their habitats;
  2. direct and guide the training of students in wildlife science at the graduate level and provide in-service training for agency employees;
  3. supply technical advice and assistance to Federal, State, and private conservation agencies in the management of wildlife resources;
  4. provide conservation education through publications, correspondence, lectures, and demonstrations.

The operations of the Unit are governed by a formal Cooperative Agreement signed by the four format cooperators.  WCWRU office are located on the University of Wisconsin Campus in Madison.  The Leader and Assistant Leader of the WCWRU are, by appointment, members of the graduate Faculty of the University of Wisconsin.

Research results and technical assistance provided by WCWRU partnership efforts are essential for management of resources implemented at the state, national and international levels.

Unit Staff

Wendy Turner

Unit Leader, Wildlife

Ph: 608-263-6882
Email: wendy.turner@wisc.edu

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Christian Che-Castaldo

Assistant Unit Leader 

Email: checastaldo@wisc.edu  

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Carolyn Rindahl

Administrative Assistant

Ph: 608-265-7909
Email: crindahl@wisc.edu

Current Research Projects

Research Areas

Our current research is focused on two wildlife disease systems 1) chronic wasting disease (CWD) in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the Midwest, and 2) anthrax in herbivorous mammals in Namibia and South Africa.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) in white-tailed deer

The Turner lab Deer Ecology and Disease (DEAD) team studies the prion disease CWD in Wisconsin deer. Prions, like the anthrax bacterium, are disease agents that are highly persistent in the environment, and we are studying how this persistence affects disease transmission dynamics of CWD in white-tailed deer. The Turner lab’s CWD research investigates how host ecology and prion persistence affect disease transmission, and in turn host population dynamics, at different stages of disease invasion into an area. We investigate how deer harvest management in the Midwestern U.S. changed with the invasion of CWD into the region, and the effectiveness of these efforts at slowing the spread of CWD. Another project evaluates relationships between deer movement ecology and CWD transmission dynamics. Another project investigates how supplemental feeding of deer affects prion concentrations and deer behavior in Tennessee. New projects are starting soon will study CWD transmission dynamics from direct and indirect transmission sources and pneumonia metagenomics in deer. Our CWD program is funded by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the US Geological Survey, and the USDA.

Anthrax in African wildlife

Our research group and collaborators study anthrax disease dynamics and pathogen evolution comparing two savanna ecosystems in southern Africa. This project links within-host, between-host, and in-environment processes, to understand how conflicting selective pressures impact pathogen diversity, host resistance and disease incidence, and ultimately, how these processes drive variation in host-pathogen co-evolution across large spatial scales. This NSF-funded project builds upon detailed records of host population dynamics, anthrax mortalities, environmental factors, and data collected on pathogen diversity, host ecology, behavior, physiology and immunology.

Anthrax in African wildlife

Amélie Dolfi  

Amélie is developing models of anthrax transmission dynamics. She uses agent-based models to investigate the interactions of Bacillus anthracis with its herbivorous hosts comparing two ecosystems in southern Africa that vary in outbreak dynamics. (Wendy Turner) (Ph.D., Wildlife). 

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Kimberlie Vera 

Kimberlie is studying anthrax transmission dynamics in a guild of herbivorous mammals, investigating how environmental variation affects host physiology, movement patterns, anthrax exposure risk and predation risk. (Wendy Turner) (Ph.D., Wildlife). 

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Sunday Ochai

Sunday is studying the ecology of anthrax in South Africa, and developing improved serological and molecular techniques for identifying Bacillus anthracis infections versus genetically similar microbial neighbors.(Wendy Turner) (M.S., Veterinary Tropical Diseases, University of Pretoria, co-advised by Henriette van Heerden).

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) in white-tailed deer

Alison Ketz

Alison is a statistician building an integrated population model to understand white-tailed deer population dynamics in the chronic wasting disease (CWD) endemic region of southwest Wisconsin and the effects of CWD on deer survival. (Wendy Turner) (Scientist II). 

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Marie Gilbertson

Marie is a quantitative ecologist studying deer movement ecology and CWD transmission in southwest Wisconsin and is the veterinarian overseeing our deer captures. Her project investigates the impact of CWD infection on deer movement behavior, and the impact of deer movements and contacts on CWD spread. (Wendy Turner) (Scientist I). 


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Heather Inzalaco

Heather is developing and managing our new prion lab at UW-Madison. Her project is studying prion deposition at CWD positive deer carcass sites and the effect of scavengers on environmental prion concentrations and CWD transmission risk. (Wendy Turner) (Post-doctoral Researcher). 

John Draper

John is leveraging historical information maintained by state agencies to evaluate impacts of CWD management activities on white-tailed deer population and disease dynamics, and to establish a framework that will improve coordination and information exchange. (Wendy Turner, co-mentored by Dan Walsh at MT-W-CRU). (Post-doctoral Researcher). 

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Nurul Islam

Nurul is a graduate student/veterinarian developing a research project on white-tailed deer behaviors and chronic wasting disease transmission risk in southwest Wisconsin. (Wendy Turner) (Ph.D., Wildlife). 


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Stephanie Katircioglu 

Stephanie is studying prion accumulation in soils at deer scrapes and food plots and white-tailed deer behaviors that shed prions and expose deer to prions in the environment. (Wendy Turner) (M.S., Wildlife). 


Aaron Groves

Aaron is a graduate student developing a project on coyote and bobcat movement ecology, predation/scavenging of white-tailed deer, and effects on chronic wasting disease spread. (Wendy Turner) (M.S., Wildlife). 


USGS Wisconsin Cooperative Resources

Chronic Wasting Disease - Deer

Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy affecting North American deer and elk, has emerged as an internationally important wildlife management issue. Studies suggest that CWD may have long-term adverse population effects on these valuable keystone species. 

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Wildlife Cooperative Unit Blog

Blog documenting different experiences of the WIWCU team members during their research and travels. 



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Light streaming through gaps in the forest canopy

Annual Report

The Cooperative Units Program of the U.S. Geological Survey has been an integral part of the Department since 1972. The Unit’s research spans the range from problem-oriented projects designed to provide cooperators with useful information on resource issues to basic scientific discovery. 

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