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Science On Tap Speaker Says Parasites Aren't All Bad

UW-Madison-Science On Tap Minocqua

The next guest of the continuing series "Science on Tap" says parasites in an ecosystem are not all bad.

Dr. Daniel Preston of UW-Madison's Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology will discuss Parasites in Freshwater Ecosystems Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Minocqua Brewing Company.

Preston says most people think parasites are always bad, but he says he can show that isn't always true...

"But there are cases where parasites are actually doing ecologically useful things in ecosystems. So I want to challenge that perception a little bit and share some interesting things and share some results about ways parasites might affect food webs and influence other species in beneficial ways at times..."

Preston says one parasite he'll discuss is something many people curse when having fun in the water in the summer....

"...Freshwater parasites, including the type that cause Swimmer's Itch can be important as food for other organisms. People often don't think about that. But there's a whole host of organisms including invertabrates and fishes that feed on parasite life stages in the aquatic environment. We don't usually see those connections but they're playing roles and not just causing disease..."

Dr. Preston says the existence of parasites and what they do proves the ecosystem is much more complex than imagined. He says the role parasites play is often overlooked.

Science on Tap is held the first Wednesday of the month. More information is at the Science on Tap Minocqua website.

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