Big horn sheep pneumonia Modeling Project
Agent-based models (ABMs, also called individual-based models) readily incorporate non-random and heterogeneous processes and can thus be used to simulate complex host-pathogen systems like the bighorn sheep pneumonia disease system. Interactions among individuals are influenced by processes such as social organization, group dynamics and dispersal behavior. Such processes are explicitly incorporated into the model based on empirical data collected as part of a field study. The model-generated populations therefore reflect real-world heterogeneities. One of the main purposes of this modeling work was to provide a decision-making context for effective management of pneumonia in wild populations of bighorn sheep. For example: i) How would varying group dynamics and levels of connectivity among populations influence disease transmission?; ii) How can the landscape be modified to reduce the risk of disease transmission?; iii) How do varying levels of home-range fidelity change population dynamics?; iv) How do various levels of behavioral plasticity influence the ability of bighorn ability to utilize the nutritional landscape optimally?; v) Can ‘superspreaders’ explain the observed patterns of disease in bighorn sheep populations?; vi) How will climate change affect use of the landscape by BHS?