Boruta ’10 Publishes on Avian Disease – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Boruta ’10 Publishes on Avian Disease

Martyna Boruta ’10 is the co-author of a book chapter titled, “The Impacts of Urbanization on Avian Disease Transmission and Emergence.” The chapter is a literature review about how cities impact avian disease transmission and emergence, published in a new edited volume “Avian Urban Ecology” (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Boruta earned her B.A. in biology and studio art from William Smith magna cum laude, and minored in environmental studies. As a student, she spent a summer as a field assistant at the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory and working on bird populations at the Colleges’ Hanley Nature Preserve.

Under the guidance of Associate Professor of Biology Mark Deutschlander, Boruta completed an honors thesis in biology titled “Hidden Color: An exploration of ultraviolet reflectance in North American passerines.”

“Martyna was a quiet, shy student from New York City who really developed a fascination and passion for birds in my First-Year Seminar, Bird Obsessions. Her interest in art as well as biology made her a perfect match for a research project I had been wanting to start on color and bird plumage,” says Deutschlander. “She is a careful, thoughtful researcher with keen insight. I am glad to see her first publication in science combines her knowledge of birds and her firsthand knowledge of urban living. I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes next.”

In the abstract for the chapter, Boruta and her co-authors note their work reviews “Possible mediators of disease emergence and transmission in urban birds, an important topic given the increase in human migration to cities and the commonness of urban areas as sources for zoonotic outbreaks.”

They point out that “Avian disease dynamics are often altered by conditions unique to cities.” Disease risk can be increased in an urban environment because of the presence of more compatible hosts that can be infected, while the dense population can just as easily decrease the risk because the presence of so many incompatible hosts essentially dilutes the parasite’s ability to transmit.

“Nevertheless, some urban conditions favor certain individuals and/or species, which could set the stage for superspreading, spillover and spillback,” according to the abstract.

The authors also note there is difficulty conducting field studies due to both limited available sites and opportunities in which to collect data. The need for several urban and non-urban field sites to compare, variation between parasites, vectors, and hosts and their means of transmission can hamper research.

Boruta is currently pursuing her master’s in biology with a concentration in ecology and evolution at the University of South Florida. Prior to entering graduate school, Boruta interned with the Audubon Seabird Restoration Project, also known as Project Puffin, and served as both a banding assistant and field assistant at Fordham University.

As a William Smith student she was a member of the rowing team and studied abroad in Wales. Boruta earned the Biology Faculty Award and the President’s Civil Leadership Award and was inducted into the Sigma Xi Society, the scientific research society.

The photo above features Martyna Boruta ’10 at Braddock Bay Bird Observatory.