Dr. Fairbanks' research program currently follows two major themes, 1) the ecology and behavior of reintroduced wildlife populations, and 2) the role of behavior in wildlife disease transmission. Reintroductions of wildlife provide unique opportunities to study the challenges faced by small, isolated populations, and to address questions very difficult to investigate in established populations. Dr. Fairbanks and her students have studied territory selection and male reproductive success in reintroduced pronghorn, establishment of the lungworm parasite in reintroduced populations of bighorn sheep, and sex-specific habitat use by reintroduced, low-elevation populations of bighorn sheep. Due to the nature of wildlife populations, the mechanisms and management of wildlife diseases will differ greatly from human and domestic animal systems. Behavior of individuals and social organization of populations will be critical to understanding wildlife disease dynamics and transmission within populations and between wildlife and domestic animals. They are currently studying parturition sites of elk with respect feedgrounds and brucellosis in western Wyoming, and the role of winter habitat improvements and other factors on use of feedgrounds by elk.
She is currently developing a proposal, with a multidisciplinary team of collaborators from several universities, to use new technology and novel techniques to collect empirical data on contact rates and patterns in bighorn sheep, use those data to develop models of disease transmission, and field test the models. This research will address both basic and applied aspects of disease transmission in one of few wildlife species in the continental U.S. for which disease has been identified as a major threat to its persistence.
- Barbknecht, A.E., W.S. Fairbanks, J.D. Rogerson, E.J. Maichak, and L.L. Linn. Submitted. Effectiveness of vaginal implant transmitters for locating elk parturition sites.
- Rogerson, J.D., W.S. Fairbanks, and L. Cornicelli. 2008. Ecology of gastropod and bighorn sheep hosts of lungworm on isolated, semi-arid mountain ranges in Utah, USA. 44:In Press.
- Brookshier, J.S. and W.S. Fairbanks. 2003. The nature and consequences of mother- daughter associations in naturally and forcibly weaned bison. Canadian Journal of Zoology 81: In Press
- Fairbanks, W.S. and R. Tullous. 2002. Distribution of pronghorn (Antilocapra americana Ord) on Antelope Island State Park, Utah, USA, before and after establishment of recreational trails. Natural Areas Journal 22:277-282.