Trematode parasites have complex life cycles often involving several host species and are of significant medical and veterinary importance. However, many wild animal species can also be infected and parasite diversity within individuals and populations can be used in ecosystem monitoring. For all trematode species, the first intermediate host is always a gastropod mollusc and intermediate stages of each parasite species (cercariae) can be identified by morphological characteristics.
For a number of years, Professor Mike Rogan has been running undergraduate student projects which are focused on investigations on the larval trematode populations within the mud snail (Hydrobia spp) around Hilbre Island, Wirral. These parasites have adult stages in the various species of birds that visit the islands and changes in parasite diversity can sometimes be correlated with differences in bird populations.
To extend these projects further he would like to utilise another site in our Living Laboratory area to sample Hydrobia snails so that direct comparisons on parasite biodiversity can be made.