Disease Ecology and Eco-Immunology Infectious diseases pose significant threats to plant, animal and human health. In recent decades, an increasing number of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) have spread to new areas. With many diseases, the environment shapes the outcome of infection. Therefore, a central question in understanding EIDs is how three critical players – host, pathogen and the environment – interact to shift disease dynamics. In our rapidly changing global environment it will be critical to better understand the role of the environment in EIDs.
Fungal disease is on the rise worldwide. Emerging fungal diseases have caused unprecedented catastrophic declines in vertebrate species. In the past decade over 6 million North American bats in eastern N. America have perished due to White-nose Syndrome, caused by the pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans. We aim to study this pathogen in the lab and western North American bats in the field in order to determine how to best protect these bats before disease arrival.
White Nose Syndrome Bats have the incredible ability to harbor numerous deadly diseases, such as Ebola and Marburg virus. However, in 2006 something unprecedented occurred, a fungal pathogen called Pseudogymnoascus destructans arrived in New York and causing the death of thousands of bats. The disease, called White Nose Syndrome, spread rapidly in the east coast and now over 6 million bats have perished.
I hope to understand the role of the environment in this disease system. The environment can affect both host and pathogen responses. Understanding the environmental mechanisms shaping hibernation physiology, ie the immune system, as well as in pathogen virulence will aid in discovering which bats will be most at risk to the disease before it arrives in new areas. Thus, we are working rapidly in the western U.S. to find out what defenses bat’s have in hibernation to White-Nose Syndrome.
About Me I am wild about fungi! I have studied the amphibian fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, and the bat fungal pathogen, P. destructans, in the Western United States for over 6 years now. I have worked in disease ecology and eco-immunology using both field and molecular/microbial lab techniques. Additionally, I utilize museum collections to answer questions about historical disease dynamics. I have worked abroad in China and Panama as well as domestically, in Nevada, California, Texas and New Mexico. I have worked in physiology, mycology and microbiology for almost a decade now and use these molecular skills within an ecological framework to answer research questions about disease dynamics.
On my off time I love discovering salamanders and mushrooms in the woods while running with my dog/research assistant, Rango, all over the eastern Sierras around Reno.