Research Highlight: Mistrick, J., Veitch, J. S. M., Kitchen, S. M., Clague, S., Newman, B. C., Hall, R. J., Budischak, S. A., Forbes, K. M., & Craft, M. E. (2024). Effects of food supplementation and helminth removal on space use and spatial overlap in wild rodent populations. Journal of Animal Ecology. http://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.14067. The spread of pathogens has been of long-standing interest, even before dramatic outbreaks of avian influenza and the coronavirus pandemic spiked broad public interest. However, the dynamics of pathogen spread in wild populations are complex, with multiple effects shaping where animals go (their space use), population density and, more fundamentally, the resultant patterns of contacts (direct or indirect) among individuals. Thus, experimental studies exploring the dynamics of contact under different sets of conditions are needed. In the current field study, Mistrick etal. (2024) used a multifactorial experimental design, manipulating food availability and individual pathogen infection state in wild bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus). They found that while food availability, individual traits and seasonality can affect how far individual voles moved, the degree of overlap between individual voles remained largely the same despite a high variation in population density-which itself was affected by food availability. These results highlight how biotic and abiotic factors can shape patterns of space use and balance the level of spatial overlap through multiple pathways.

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