Using Social Network Measures in Wildlife Disease Ecology, Epidemiology, and Management

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Contact networks, behavioral interactions, and shared use of space can all have important implications for the spread of disease in animals. Social networks enable the quantification of complex patterns of interactions; therefore, network analysis is becoming increasingly widespread in the study of infectious disease in animals, including wildlife. We present an introductory guide to using social-network-analytical approaches in wildlife disease ecology, epidemiology, and management. We focus on providing detailed practical guidance for the use of basic descriptive network measures by suggesting the research questions to which each technique is best suited and detailing the software available for each. We also discuss how using network approaches can be used beyond the study of social contacts and across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Finally, we integrate these approaches to examine how network analysis can be used to inform the implementation and monitoring of effective disease management strategies.

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