Migratory waterfowl are the primary reservoir of avian influenza viruses (AIV), which can be spread to commercial poultry. Surveillance efforts that track the location and abundance of wild waterfowl and link those data to inform assessments of risk and sampling for AIV currently do not exist. To assist surveillance and minimize poultry exposure to AIV, here we explored the utility of Remotely Sensed Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite imagery in combination with land-based climate measurements (e.g., temperature and precipitation) to predict waterfowl location and abundance in near real-time in the California Central Valley (CCV), where both wild waterfowl and domestic poultry are densely located. Specifically, remotely collected MODIS and climate data were integrated into a previously developed boosted regression tree (BRT) model to predict and visualize waterfowl distributions across the CCV. Daily model-based predictions are publicly available during the winter as part of the dynamic California Waterfowl Tracker (CWT) web app hosted on the University of California's Cooperative Extension webpage. In this study, we analyzed 52 days of model predictions and produced daily spatiotemporal maps of waterfowl concentrations near the 605 commercial poultry farms in the CCV during January and February of 2019. Exposure of each poultry farm to waterfowl during each day was classified as high, medium, low, or none, depending on the density of waterfowl within 4 km of a farm. Results indicated that farms were at substantially greater risk of exposure in January, when CCV waterfowl populations peak, than in February. For example, during January, 33% (199/605) of the farms were exposed for ≥1 day to high waterfowl density vs. 19% (115/605) of the farms in February. In addition to demonstrating the overall variability of waterfowl location and density, these data demonstrate how remote sensing can be used to better triage AIV surveillance and biosecurity efforts via the utilization of a functional web app–based tool. The ability to leverage remote sensing is an integral advancement toward improving AIV surveillance in waterfowl in close proximity to commercial poultry. Expansion of these types of remote sensing methods, linked to a user-friendly web tool, could be further developed across the continental United States. The BRT model incorporated into the CWT reflects a first attempt to give an accurate representation of waterfowl distribution and density relative to commercial poultry.
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Vol. 65 • No. 3