Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

‘Scoop a Poop’- Citizen Scientists tackle antibiotic resistance in the wild (#281)

Michelle Power 1 , Koa Webster 2 , Clare McArthur 1 , Michael Gillings 2
  1. Macquarie University, North Ryde, ACT, Australia
  2. School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Combating antibiotic resistance requires a multimodal approach, spanning community, basic science, medical and veterinary practice. Public awareness is central for dealing with the problem of antibiotic resistance and its global effects on populations. We aim to use wildlife as a vehicle for conveying issues of antibiotic resistance to the public by involving citizens in fundamental science that addresses dissemination of resistance. Under the banner ‘Scoop a Poop’, citizens will learn about resistance, how to identify and collect wildlife scat samples, and become familiar with the science used to investigate resistance. Participants (school students) will collect possum scats from urban backyards using a specially designed kit. They will also have the opportunity to attend university for a day to learn the DNA methods used to test samples for resistance genes. We will leverage the increased sampling intensity afforded by citizen participants to assess the ecology and transmission of antibiotic resistance in a widespread species, the brushtail possum. Possums thrive in rural and remote areas, but have also adapted well to urban environments. They are therfore exposed to varying levels of contact with antibiotic resistance genes carried by humans and domesticated animals. Consequently, possums are a potential sentinel species for understanding dissemination of antibiotic resistance in the Australian environment. Addressing this issue at the ecosystem level will help direct decisions on where national efforts should be placed in combatting transmission of resistance between environmental compartments.