The Cardiff Otter Project team, and new projects

Each year the Otter Project takes on undergraduate students as part of a professional training year scheme. Esme Burrows and Gareth Davies have just completed their PTY year and have contributed to research projects on micro-plastics, and macro-parasites respectively.

The Project also welcomes European students on Erasmus programmes. This year, Sergio Bedmar Castillo (a graduate from the University of Córdoba in Spain) is helping our postdoc Eleanor Kean with research on otter diet. By examining spraint samples collected in the 1980s, 1990s and 2015-16, Sergio is looking at how diet has changed with time – which will help inform research on trophic acquisition of contaminants.

Anne-Fleur Brand (a recently graduated veterinarian from the Netherlands) is currently doing a master’s in Toxicology and Environmental Health. She is working with postdoc Juliet Hynes in a collaborative project with Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme, quantifying metallotoxins in otters and their links to health.

Recent publications

Cardiff University Otter Project have used the Eurasian otter as a model to assess the potential effect of climate, land cover and biotic factors on the seroprevalence on a parasite of global importance, Toxoplasma gondii, in British wildlife. We found that T. gondii antibodies were in 25.5% of otters, found dead, mainly as road-kill, in England and Wales between 2004-2010. We identified that land cover and temperature are key determinants of T. gondii infection risk, with more infection in arable areas, and lower infection where temperatures are higher.

Smallbone, W.A., Chadwick, E.A., Francis, J., Guy, E., Perkins, S.E., Sherrard-Smith, E. and Cable, J. 2017. East-West Divide: temperature and land cover drive spatial variation of Toxoplasma gondii infection in Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) from England and Wales. Parasitology. Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0031182017000865

Fig. 2. Model predictions to show the probability of a Toxoplasma gondii infection in adult, male Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) for different land uses (arable, mixed, improved grassland and semi-natural) as a function of average minimum temperature (°C).