Carter Atkinson, Ph.D.
Ph.D. 1985 Veterinary Parasitology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
M.S. 1981 Medical Parasitology, Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans, LA
B.S. 1976 Biology, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA
Specialty: Wildlife disease with a focus on vector borne parasitic diseases of birds
Research Interests: Ecology and pathogenicity of blood parasites of vertebrates
Personal Interests: Hiking and family life
Science and Products
Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death (ROD) is an emerging and rapidly spreading disease of ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha), a keystone native forest tree in the Hawaiian Islands. The disease is highly pathogenic in native ‘ōhi‘a and can lead to significant mortality once symptoms become evident. This emerging pathogen is a significant threat to native forests throughout the state because of its...
Environmental DNA (eDNA): a New Tool for Monitoring Status and Trends of Ecosystems and Taxa in Hawaii and Pacific Islands
Remote locations, rugged topography, extreme weather conditions, high numbers of threatened and endangered taxa, and widespread degradation of native ecosystems by invasive species makes routine monitoring to determine status and trends of ecosystems and native and invasive taxa difficult and expensive in the Hawaiian Islands. There is a need to supplement existing monitoring protocols with...
Both wildlife and human health in Hawai‘i and other island ecosystems in the Pacific Basin face continued threats from introductions of diseases and vectors. Accidental introduction of mosquito-borne avian malaria and pox virus to Hawai‘i is an outstanding example of how biological invasions can have a profound effect on endemic wildlife. The geographic distribution, density, and community...
Population differences in susceptibility to Plasmodium relictum in zebra finches Taeniopygia guttata
Domesticated Australian and Timor zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata castanotis, and T. guttata guttata, respectively) were inoculated with canary (Serinus canaria) blood containing a Hawaiian isolate of Plasmodium relictum (lineage GRW04), a hemoparasite that causes avian malaria. In two experimental trials, Timor, but not Australian zebra...Hofmeister, Erik K.; Balakrishnan, Christopher N.; Atkinson, Carter T.
Characterization of Plasmodium relictum, a cosmopolitan agent of avian malaria
BackgroundMicroscopic research has shown that Plasmodium relictum is the most common agent of avian malaria. Recent molecular studies confirmed this conclusion and identified several mtDNA lineages, suggesting the existence of significant intra-species genetic variation or cryptic speciation. Most identified lineages have a broad range...Valkiunas, Gediminas; Ilgūnas, Mikas; Bukauskaitė, Dovilė; Fragner, Karin; Weissenböck, Herbert; Atkinson, Carter T.; Iezhova, Tatjana
A rapid diagnostic test and mobile "lab in a suitcase" platform for detecting Ceratocystis spp. responsible for Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death
We describe a field compatible molecular diagnostic test for two new species of Ceratocystis that infect `ōhi`a (Metrosideros polymorpha) and cause the disease commonly known as Rapid `Ōhi`a Death. The diagnostic is based on amplification of a DNA locus within the internal transcribed spacer region that separates fungal 5.8S ribosomal genes. The...Atkinson, Carter T.; Watcher-Weatherwax, William; Roy, Kylle; Heller, Wade P; Keith, Lisa
Mitigating future avian malaria threats to Hawaiian forest birds from climate change
Avian malaria, transmitted by Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes in the Hawaiian Islands, has been a primary contributor to population range limitations, declines, and extinctions for many endemic Hawaiian honeycreepers. Avian malaria is strongly influenced by climate; therefore, predicted future changes are expected to expand transmission into...Liao, Wei; Atkinson, Carter T.; LaPointe, Dennis; Samuel, Michael D.
Genetic variation and structure in remnant population of critically endangered Melicope zahlbruckneri
The distribution and amount of genetic variation within and between populations of plant species are important for their adaptability to future habitat changes and also critical for their restoration and overall management. This study was initiated to assess the genetic status of the remnant population of Melicope zahlbruckneri–a critically...Raji, J. A.; Atkinson, Carter T.
Changes in the prevalence of avian disease and mosquito vectors at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge: a 14-year perspective and assessment of future risk
Throughout the main Hawaiian Islands, introduced mosquito-borne disease has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on the distributions and abundance of native Hawaiian forest birds. Populations of remaining native forest birds are largely restricted to high elevation forests where mean temperatures are marginal for vector and parasite...LaPointe, Dennis; Gaudioso-Levita, Jacqueline M.; Atkinson, Carter T.; Egan, Ariel N.; Hayes, Kathleen
Genetic diversity of Wolbachia endosymbionts in Culex quinquefasciatus from Hawai`i, Midway Atoll, and Samoa
Incompatible insect techniques are potential methods for controlling Culex quinquefasciatus and avian disease transmission in Hawai‘i without the use of pesticides or genetically modified organisms. The approach is based on naturally occurring sperm-egg incompatibilities within the Culex pipiens complex that are controlled by different...Atkinson, Carter T.; Watcher-Weatherwax, William; Lapointe, Dennis
Effects of Climate and land use on diversity, prevalence, and seasonal transmission of avian hematozoa in American Samoa
The indigenous forest birds of American Samoa are increasingly threatened by changing patterns of rainfall and temperature that are associated with climate change as well as environmental stressors associated with agricultural and urban development, invasive species, and new introductions of avian diseases and disease vectors. Long term changes in...Atkinson, Carter T.; Utuzurrum, Ruth B.; Seamon, Joshua O.; Schmaedick, Mark A.; Lapointe, Dennis; Apelgren, Chloe; Egan, Ariel N.; Watcher-Weatherwax, William
Avian disease and mosquito vectors in the Kahuku unit of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park and Ka`u Forest Reserve
While avian disease has been well-studied in windward forests of Hawai‘i Island, there have been few studies in leeward Ka‘u. We surveyed four altitudinal sites ranging from 1,200 to 2,200 m asl in the Kahuku Unit of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (Kahuku) and three altitudinal sites ranging from 1,200 to 1,500 m asl in the Ka...Gaudioso, Jacqueline; Lapointe, Dennis; Atkinson, Carter T.; Egan, Ariel N.
Will a warmer and wetter future cause extinction of native Hawaiian forest birds?
Isolation of the Hawaiian archipelago produced a highly endemic and unique avifauna. Avian malaria (Plasmodium relictum), an introduced mosquito-borne pathogen, is a primary cause of extinctions and declines of these endemic honeycreepers. Our research assesses how global climate change will affect future malaria risk and native bird populations....Liao, Wei; Timm, Oliver Elison; Zhang, Chunxi; Atkinson, Carter T.; LaPointe, Dennis; Samuel, Michael D.
Avian malaria in Hawaiian forest birds: Infection and population impacts across species and elevations
Wildlife diseases can present significant threats to ecological systems and biological diversity, as well as domestic animal and human health. However, determining the dynamics of wildlife diseases and understanding the impact on host populations is a significant challenge. In Hawai‘i, there is ample circumstantial evidence that introduced...Samuel, Michael D.; Woodworth, Bethany L.; Atkinson, Carter T.; Hart, P. J.; LaPointe, Dennis
Global phylogeography of the avian malaria pathogen Plasmodium relictum based on MSP1 allelic diversity
Knowing the genetic variation that occurs in pathogen populations and how it is distributed across geographical areas is essential to understand parasite epidemiology, local patterns of virulence, and evolution of host-resistance. In addition, it is important to identify populations of pathogens that are evolutionarily independent and thus ‘...Hellgren, Olof; Atkinson, Carter T.; Bensch, Staffan; Albayrak, Tamer; Dimitrov, Dimitar; Ewen, John G.; Kim, Kyeong Soon; Lima, Marcos R.; Martin, Lynn; Palinauskas, Vaidas; Ricklefs, Robert; Sehgal, Ravinder N. M.; Gediminas, Valkiunas; Tsuda, Yoshio; Marzal, Alfonso
Researchers at the USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, and USDA Agriculture Research Service have developed a new tool to rapidly detect the pathogens that cause Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death, a disease affecting a keystone tree species across more than 50,000 of acres of land in Hawai‘i.
ISLAND OF HAWAI‘I, Hawaii — Hawai‘i, the name alone elicits images of rhythmic traditional dancing, breathtaking azure sea coasts and scenes of vibrant birds flitting through lush jungle canopy. Unfortunately, the future of many native Hawaiian birds looks grim as diseases carried by mosquitoes are due to expand into higher elevation safe zones.
Warming temperatures due to climate change are exposing endangered Hawaiian forest birds to greater risk of avian malaria. But new research led by the U.S. Geological Survey holds out some hope that the birds may be able to adapt.