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EEB Thursday Seminar: Unexpected responses of disease to global change

Erin Mordecai, Stanford University
Thursday, February 16, 2017
4:00-5:00 PM
1200 Chemistry Dow Lab Map
With the threat of changing climate, species invasions, shifts in land use, and other anthropogenic changes, ecologists are increasingly concerned about the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. The common assumption is that environmental changes will facilitate disease spread and increase the risk to humans and species of agricultural and conservation concern. Yet most ecological processes are nonlinear, and the response of infectious diseases to environmental change is no exception. In this talk, I will explore two ways in which nonlinearities in disease transmission lead to unexpected responses of disease to environmental change: (1) pathogen spillover from exotic to native plant species, and (2) impacts of temperature on vector-borne disease transmission. To understand the importance of nonlinearity in these systems, I use mathematical models fit to empirical data. In both cases the field-parameterized models show, counter-intuitively, that environmental change does not necessarily lead to negative disease-mediated outcomes. In fact, the fungal pathogen is predicted to benefit the native grass species in competition with the invasive grass, and warm temperatures are expected to decrease malaria transmission in currently heavily-infected areas. These surprising results underscore the importance of integrating models and data to predict responses of disease to environmental change in nature.
Light refreshments served at 4 p.m.

Watch YouTube video:
Building: Chemistry Dow Lab
Event Type: Workshop / Seminar
Tags: Biology, Discussion, Ecology, Research, Science
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, EEB Thursday Seminars