Dean Biggins, Ph.D.
Dr. Biggins has been interested in grassland ecology since 1981. Within that broad topic his research has involved varied themes, including aspects of behavioral ecology, predator-prey relationships, and ecology of wildlife diseases. Most investigations have been motivated by their application to conservation and recovery of federally listed species. In that context, Dr. Biggins has worked at field study sites from Montana to Chihuahua, Mexico, as well as in Inner Mongolia and the Tibetan Plateau. Research has involved students at various universities (in CA, CO, ID, NM, MI, MO, TX, WY, France, and China). Taxa of interest have been carnivores (e.g., black-footed ferrets, Siberian polecats, badgers, weasels, coyotes, foxes), rodents, arthropods (fleas, ticks), and bacteria (Yersinia pestis). His present research emphasis is on ecology of plague, including its hosts and vectors, concentrating on maintenance of plague and its chronic effects on wildlife populations and ecosystems during inter-epizootic periods.
- Ph.D., Zoology, Colorado State University, 2000
- M.S., Wildlife Biology, University of Montana, 1975
- B.S., Wildlife Management, Humboldt State University, 1968
- 1998—Special Recognition Award, Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team
- 2004—Conservationist of the Year, Denver Zoological Foundation
- 2005—Science Excellence Award of the Year, USGS, Biological Resources Division, Central Region
- 2012—Aldo Leopold Award, American Society of Mammalogists
- Research Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1976-1993
- Research Wildlife Biologist, National Biological Service, 1993-1996
- Research Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Geological Survey, 1996-present
- Adjunct Faculty, Department of Biology, Colorado State University, 2002-present
American Society of Mammalogists, 1989 to present
Science and Products
Large scale changes are occurring to our natural landscapes, often resulting in changes to the distribution and abundance of species living within these landscapes. Populations of many species affected by these natural or anthropogenic changes require focused management to ensure their conservation and sometimes recovery from the brink of extinction.
Occurrence of plague epizootics in colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs, Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado, 1982-2005
Data on the occurrence of plague epizootics in colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs, Pawnee National Grassland, Colorado 1982-2005. Data are derived from annual prairie dog surveys conducted by staff of the Pawnee National Grassland, U.S. Forest Service.
Plague in a colony of Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) despite three years of infusions of burrows with 0.05% deltamethrin to kill fleas
At Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico, US, infusing Gunnison's prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni) burrows with an insecticide dust containing 0.05% deltamethrin killed fleas which transmit bubonic plague. The reduction in the number of fleas per prairie dog was significant and dramatic immediately after infusions, with a suggestion that...Hoogland, John L.; Biggins, Dean E.; Blackford, Nathaniel; Eads, David; Long, Dustin; Rivera Rodriguez, Mariana; Ross, Lauren M.; Tobey, Sarah; White, Emma M.
Evolution, natural history, and conservation of black-footed ferrets: Chapter 15
No abstract available.Biggins, Dean E.; Eads, David A.
Factors influencing uptake of sylvatic plague vaccine baits by prairie dogs
Sylvatic plague vaccine (SPV) is a virally vectored bait-delivered vaccine expressing Yersinia pestis antigens that can protect prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) from plague and has potential utility as a management tool. In a large-scale 3-year field trial, SPV-laden baits containing the biomarker rhodamine B (used to determine bait consumption) were...Abbott, Rachel C.; Russell, Robin E.; Richgels, Katherine; Tripp, Daniel W.; Matchett, Marc R.; Biggins, Dean E.; Rocke, Tonie E.
Grooming behaviors of black-tailed prairie dogs are influenced by flea parasitism, conspecifics, and proximity to refuge
Grooming is a common animal behavior that aids in ectoparasite defense. Ectoparasites can stimulate grooming, and natural selection can also favor endogenous mechanisms that evoke periodic bouts of “programmed” grooming to dislodge or kill ectoparasites before they bite or feed. Moreover, grooming can function as a displacement or communication...Eads, David A.; Biggins, Dean E.; Eads, Samantha L.
Paltry past-precipitation: Predisposing prairie dogs to plague?
The plague bacterium Yersinia pestis was introduced to California in 1900 and spread rapidly as a sylvatic disease of mammalian hosts and flea vectors, invading the Great Plains in the United States by the 1930s to 1940s. In grassland ecosystems, plague causes periodic, devastating epizootics in colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs (...Eads, David; Biggins, Dean E.
Sylvatic plague vaccine partially protects prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) in field trials
Sylvatic plague, caused by Yersinia pestis, frequently afflicts prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.), causing population declines and local extirpations. We tested the effectiveness of bait-delivered sylvatic plague vaccine (SPV) in prairie dog colonies on 29 paired placebo and treatment plots (1–59 ha in size; average 16.9 ha) in 7 western...Rocke, Tonie E.; Tripp, Daniel W.; Russell, Robin E.; Abbott, Rachel C.; Richgels, Katherine; Matchett, Marc R.; Biggins, Dean E.; Griebel, Randall; Schroeder, Greg; Grassel, Shaun M.; Pipkin, David R.; Cordova, Jennifer; Kavalunas, Adam; Maxfield, Brian; Boulerice, Jesse T.; Miller, Michael W.
Plague cycles in two rodent species from China: Dry years might provide context for epizootics in wet years
Plague, a rodent-associated, flea-borne zoonosis, is one of the most notorious diseases in history. Rates of plague transmission can increase when fleas are abundant. Fleas commonly desiccate and die when reared under dry conditions in laboratories, suggesting fleas will be suppressed during droughts in the wild, thus reducing the rate at which...Eads, David A.; Biggins, Dean E.; Xu, Lei; Liu, Qiyong
Droughts may increase susceptibility of prairie dogs to fleas: Incongruity with hypothesized mechanisms of plague cycles in rodents
Plague is a reemerging, rodent-associated zoonosis caused by the flea-borne bacterium Yersinia pestis. As a vector-borne disease, rates of plague transmission may increase when fleas are abundant. Fleas are highly susceptible to desiccation under hot-dry conditions; we posited that their densities decline during droughts. We evaluated this...Eads, David A.; Biggins, Dean E.; Long, Dustin H.; Gage, Kenneth L.; Antolin, Michael F.
Factors that affect parasitism of black-tailed prairie dogs by fleas
Fleas (Insecta: Siphonaptera) are hematophagous ectoparasites that feed on vertebrate hosts. Fleas can reduce the fitness of hosts by interfering with immune responses, disrupting adaptive behaviors, and transmitting pathogens. The negative effects of fleas on hosts are usually most pronounced when fleas attain high densities. In lab studies,...Eads, David A.; Hoogland, John L.
Interactions among American badgers, black-footed ferrets, and prairie dogs in the grasslands of western North America
American badgers (Taxidea taxus) and black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) sometimes occur sympatrically within colonies of prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) in the grasslands of western North America. From the perspective of a simplified food web, badgers are consumers of ferrets and, to a greater extent, prairie dogs; ferrets are specialized...Proulx, Gilbert; Do Linh San, Emmanuel; Eads, David A.; Biggins, Dean E.; Grassel, Shaun M.; Livieri, Travis M.; Licht, Daniel S.
Plague bacterium as a transformer species in prairie dogs and the grasslands of western North America
Invasive transformer species change the character, condition, form, or nature of ecosystems and deserve considerable attention from conservation scientists. We applied the transformer species concept to the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis in western North America, where the pathogen was introduced around 1900. Y. pestis ...Eads, David A.; Biggins, Dean E.
Using occupancy models to investigate the prevalence of ectoparasitic vectors on hosts: an example with fleas on prairie dogs
Ectoparasites are often difficult to detect in the field. We developed a method that can be used with occupancy models to estimate the prevalence of ectoparasites on hosts, and to investigate factors that influence rates of ectoparasite occupancy while accounting for imperfect detection. We describe the approach using a study of fleas (...Eads, David A.; Biggins, Dean E.; Doherty, Paul F.; Gage, Kenneth L.; Huyvaert, Kathryn P.; Long, Dustin H.; Antolin, Michael F.