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Yellowstone’s Wolves and the “Mind-Control” Parasite

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Event description

Date: Thursday, March 30th
Time: 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Location: Montana Natural History Center

Perhaps you’ve heard of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (or “toxo” for short), sometimes called the “mind-control parasite.” It can infect any warm-blooded species, but it requires a feline host in order to reproduce. It’s estimated that one third of all people are carriers, and some studies indicate that toxo infection increases an individual’s risk-taking behavior.

A new article in the journal Communications Biology suggests that toxo also affects the behavior of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The study’s authors used 25 years of wolf and cougar data to demonstrate that toxo infection directly affects risk-taking in wolves. In fact, a wolf infected with toxo is 46 times more likely to become a pack leader! Learn more about this fascinating study from one of its lead authors, University of Montana PhD student Connor Meyer.

About the presenter: Connor grew up in western Washington, and as an undergraduate he gained experience working with cougars in the Cascade mountains. After earning a degree in wildlife conservation, he worked for the Yellowstone Wolf and Cougar Projects, aimed at understanding wolf and cougar interspecies, disease, and predator-prey dynamics. In 2021, he joined Mark Hebblewhite’s lab at the University of Montana as a PhD student. When not working, he attempts to stave off injury while running, hiking, biking, and skiing.

Cost: $5 MNHC members, $10 non-members.


What’s the refund policy?

The course fee is refundable if a cancellation is made up to 7 days before the event. Humanitix fees are not refundable. No refunds will be issued for cancellations made after this deadline. In light of changes to programming due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Montana Natural History Center will make exceptions to its normal refund policy. These exceptions are as follows:

  • Any programs cancelled by the Montana Natural History Center are eligible for a full refund.
  • In the event a program fee can be rolled over to a following cycle or year, that offer will be made available to the paying program participant, and a spot will be reserved for the participant.
  • If a program is cancelled by a participant due to reasonable health and safety concerns from exposure risk to novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Montana Natural History Center will issue a full refund.
  • If any participant experiences major illness, injury, or loss of a family member prior to the start of a registered program the participant is eligible for a full refund.

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

Nope! We will have a list of all the attendees.

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Refund policy

Refunds are available up to 7 days prior to the event