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Doctoral Student:
Kenneth Keuk

Professional Background

From veterinary medicine...

Animals and their infectious diseases—how they spread, what effect they cause, how to manage them—are among the topics I am most interested in, and I have been for a while: ​I graduated as a veterinarian from Alfort Veterinary School, South-West of Paris, in 2015, after a 7-year curriculum. Veterinary sciences had me work toward improving the health of animals found in homes (cats, dogs, exotics), farms (cows, sheeps, horses, etc.), but also zoos and sanctuaries in Senegal (Parc de Hann, Dakar), the Netherlands (GaiaZoo, Kerkrade), France (Parc zoologique du Lunaret, Montpellier), and Uganda (Ngamba Island Sanctuary, Entebbe).

But back then already, I knew that my interests lied not only in the health of individuals—even though I still strongly believe in the importance of working at this scale! It was a desire to better understand disease transmission in animal populations—within a group and across species—that led me to pursue a career in wildlife disease ecology.

​... to wildlife research...

My first contact with wildlife research in situ was when I participated in the Nocturnal Primates Project at the Danau Girang Field Center in 2014, where I had the opportunity to follow a mother-infant pair of free-ranging slow lorises (Nycticebus menagensis), which served as the basis for my veterinary thesis. Under the supervision of Dr. Caroline Gilbert (thesis supervisor) and Dr. Danica Stark (Nocturnal Primates Project's leader), I described the ranging patterns of these radio-collared individuals—a first for a mother-infant slow loris pair!

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​​Left: VHF radio-tracking of the collared slow lorises — Right: Bulu, a radio-collared individual. Photographs credit: Kenneth Keuk

I then completed a Master in Ecophysiology and Ethology at Strasbourg University in 2016, under the supervision of Dr. Cédric Sueur. That year, I had the opportunity to do an internship at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University (now Kyoto University Inuyama Campus), under the co-supervision of Dr. Andrew MacIntosh (our lab's PI) and Dr. Julie Duboscq (one of our former lab post-docs). My project was on macaque parasites, with two questions at two scales: (1) Is individual centrality correlated with parasite load, in the proximity social networks of the well-studied Koshima macaques (case study), and (2) Do parasite prevalence and diversity vary with macaque social style—how socially (in)tolerant the species tends to be—using published data from the literature (comparative literature survey)? This experience into the world of research convinced me to enroll for a Doctoral course at the MacIntosh Lab, Kyoto University, later in 2020.

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... with various in-betweens

The years between my Master's completion and the beginning of my Doctoral course were an opportunity to explore a range of professional experiences. I worked in small animal veterinary clinics across various french cities, and continued gathering clinical experience as a general veterinary practitioner—including in surgery and anesthesia at a reference clinic in Paris area. When I was not working at a clinic, I participated in and helped developing field projects and conservation missions such as the P²ARASITE Project for the MacIntosh Lab (research assistant), the annual health checks of the chimpanzees at the Ngamba Island Sanctuary (volunteer veterinarian), a pilot study on social behavior and parasitism of the red-bellied guenons of Drabo-Gbo primate sanctuary for the ODDB NGO in Benin (project development, master students supervision and capacity building in parasitology and social network analysis).

Top left: a macaque of Koshima — Top right: quantitative microscopy in our Parasite Lab

Bot. left: an adult Oesophagostomum aculeatum worm on a macaque feces — Bot. right: macaques during feeding on the beach of Koshima. Photographs credit: Kenneth Keuk

​Left to right, top to bottom: Master students supervision, Benin — Red-bellied guenon fecal sampling, Drabo Gbo — Close-up of a red-bellied guenon, Benin — Rescued chimpanzees at Ngamba Island Sanctuary, Uganda — Primate survey in Sabah, Malaysia — Primate feces sampling in Sabah, Malaysia. Photographs credit: Kenneth Keuk

Along my professional steps, I developed and strengthened several passions of mine that can somewhat—directly or indirectly—matter for research and conservation:

  • statistical analysis, data management and coding (R❤) - to see and understand the world through another angle

  • bouldering and hiking - to keep reaching higher and further places

  • photography, especially for wildlife - to capture and show how I see the world

  • graphic design (as a total amateur!) - science and data can and should be beautiful!

Research Project:

Parasite transmission at different scales

"Somewhat, I study bugs, networks, poop and aliens."

After studying parasite transmission in the well-known group of Koshima macaques, I now investigate how parasites transmit in a network of host species with two additional systems: the primates of Sabah, a transitioning landscape (Malaysia), and the mammal communities where raccoon dogs live and invade (Japan).

Primate and Parasite communities in Sabah: the dilution effect across a Bornean landscape

If you happen to have 3 minutes to hear about this project, you might as well head there and watch my submission for the HIRAKU 3MT Competition 2020!🏆

Click on the thumbnail to see my submission for the HIRAKU 3MT Competition 2020!

This project investigates the transmission of parasites among the community of primates in multiple regions of Sabah, Borneo. While this has been my main doctoral project, the COVID-19 pandemic halted this field-based research, that is now resuming after three long years! Its scientific rationale is as follow:

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic highlighted the importance of identifying potential drivers of zoonoses’ emergence. This project investigates if the dilution effect—infectious disease risk decreases with increasing biodiversity—and human disturbance drive primate disease risk in Sabah, Borneo. The current and unprecedented biodiversity loss and increase in disease emergence in and from wildlife are especially apparent in this biodiversity hotspot: its 10 primate species—all threatened with extinction despite their key role in the ecosystem—re also a major source of zoonoses. This field-based project focuses on primate species’ ranging patterns—where they are and cooccur—and the gastrointestinal parasites they harbor.

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Primates of the Kinabatangan. ​Left to right, top to bottom: A Proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) — a western tarsier (Tarsius bancanus) — A flanged-male Borneo orangutan (Pong pygmaeus) — a silver langur (Trachypithecus cristatus) — a troop of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) — A Pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina). Photographs credit: Kenneth Keuk

The Tanuki Project: does biological invasion reshape disease risk for the rest of the community?

I joined this project for its first ever pilot study in Yakushima, early 2022. Along with Kasia Majewski—co-lab member at the MacIntosh Lab—I investigate how raccoon dogs shape disease risk in their environment. Raccoon dogs show high adaptability in their diet, and the climatic and environmental conditions they can withstand. As a generalist and opportunist species, it has become one of the most successful alien carnivore in Europe, and has an important role as pathogen spreader and reservoir, including of zoonoses. Raccoon dogs are actually also invasive in two islands in Japan including Yakushima—where they cohabit with other carnivores like an endemic subspecies of Japanese weasel, cats and dogs—but their generalists' traits and behavioral flexibility can give them a pivotal role in the transmission of pathogens from and to the different mammalian hosts, even in their native range in Japan. Since we observe individuals in Inuyama itself—I identified one of their latrines in the forest patch down my apartment!—along other medium and large mammals like foxes, wild boars, raccoons, masked palm civets, cats and dogs, I recently started fieldwork-from-home! I investigate what pathogens raccoon dogs can spread in the mammal community found in a peri-urban environment like Inuyama, were they can spread pathogens at the human-wildlife interface, possibly via our domestic pets.

Click on the thumbnail to see our mini-documentary introducing the Tanuki Project in Yakushima!

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