Brianna Schneck

Brianna Schneck is a graduate student (PhD) in the Environmental and Conservation Sciences (ECS) program and NDSU. She completed her B.S. in zoology (emphasis in fisheries, wildlife, ecology, and behavior) from NDSU in May of 2008. Brianna’s main research focuses on source tracking, host-parasite co-evolution, and host specific adaptation of Cryptosporidium in animals.

Source tracking of Cryptosporidium in rural watersheds

Fellow: Brianna Schneck

Co-Advisors: Dr. John McEvoy, Department of Veterinary and Microbiological Sciences
Dr. Mark Clark, Department of Biological Sciences

Description and Significance of the project:

The Upper Midwest has among the highest incidences of human cryptosporidiosis in the U.S. (Hlavsa et al. 2005). There is therefore a critical need to determine Cryptosporidium sources and transmission dynamics in this region. A study, which I co-authored, has shown that most human cryptosporidiosis in the region is caused by C. parvum, a species associated with humans and cattle (Feltus et al. 2006). However, the traditional model, describing Cryptosporidium movement from livestock to humans via water, appears over simplistic in light of recent evidence of wildlife sources of contamination. Cryptosporidium species associated with wildlife are not human pathogens and are not a public health threat. To better understand the human health significance of Cryptosporidium in rural watersheds, we need to determine the source of the contamination. I will address this need by quantifying the impact of the wildlife and cattle sources in rural watersheds in the region. With the successful completion of this project, I expect to have clarified the public health significance of waterborne Cryptosporidium in rural watersheds. Outputs from this project will have regional, national, and international relevance and will be critical to the guidance of future policies on the control of Cryptosporidium transmission in water.

Project Objectives: 

  1. Determine the extent of Cryptosporidium host adaptation and co-evolution with hosts.
    Rationale: While there is compelling qualitative data to support host adaptation and co-evolution, there has been no quantitative data to support this hypothesis. Such quantitative data is critical if host adaptation is to be exploited to accurately determine the source of contamination.
  2. To determine the factors influencing the contributions of cattle and wildlife to Cryptosporidium in rivers.
    Rationale: This is critical to understanding the public health significance of Cryptosporidium in rural watersheds.

Brianna Schneck

Brianna Schneck

John McEvoy


Advisor: John McEvoy, Assistant Professor, Pathogenic Microbiology