CTR - Avian Influenza in North American Migratory Birds

Avian Influenza Virus in North American Migratory Birds


The UCLA Center for Tropical Research (CTR) is at the forefront of research and surveillance of avian influenza virus (bird flu or avian flu) in wild birds. CTR has led avian influenza virus (AIV) surveys of migratory land birds in both North America and Central Africa. Recently, CTR was awarded a four-year project from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH/NIAID) entitled “Effects of Avian Migration and Anthropogenic Change on the Distribution and Transmission Risks of Avian Influenza."

With this generous support, we are conducting research to determine the role that North American migratory birds play in the dispersion of AIV strains between breeding sites in Canada and the U.S. and wintering sites in Mexico, Central America, and South America. In addition, we plan to investigate the impact that human land use changes may have on migratory routes and the potential transmission of influenza between hosts, particularly between humans and birds.


Our research is divided into four parts:

  1. Identifying the distribution and prevalence of avian influenza strains in Nearctic-Neotropical migratory birds.
  2. Establishing the extent to which AIV distributions correlate with known patterns of migratory connectivity.
  3. Determining the incidence of AIV transmission from birds to humans and whether the strain distributions in humans reflect the strain distributions in birds.
  4. Identifying, using remote sensing data, the environmental variables that are associated with AIV strain distribution.  This data will be incorporated into ecological models used to predict how human changes in habitat can affect transmission dynamics between migratory species, between migratory and resident species, and between birds and humans.

These studies take advantage of our unique collaboration with the major bird banding station networks in the Americas, our extensive experience in avian field research in Central Africa, and UCLA’s unique resources and expertise in infectious diseases.

Collaborating Organizations

Collaborators on this project include the following organizations:

AIV Project Contact Information

Erin Toffelmier
Research Assistant, Center for Tropical Research
and Department of Ecology and Evolution Biology
University of California, Los Angeles
621 Charles Young Drive South
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Lab: 310.825.0253
Cell: 530.305.8880
Fax: 310.825.5446
Email: etoff@ucla.edu

CTR Bird

Center for Tropical Research | UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
La Kretz Hall, Suite 300 | 619 Charles E. Young Dr. East | Los Angeles, CA 90095-1496

The Center for Tropical Research, located on the third floor of La Kretz Hall, is part of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. For general inquiries, contact Christa Gomez, CTR Office Manager, at (310) 206-6234, or by email at cgomez@lifesci.ucla.edu. Visitors are always welcome.

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