Behavioral disease ecology
Pathogens impose strong selective pressures on their hosts, driving the evolution of host behaviors that reduce disease risk. Much of my research focuses on understanding how changes in host behavior after disease exposure impact disease outcomes.
During my PhD, I studied the role of host thermoregulatory behavior in bolstering amphibian resistance to two pathogens contributing to global population declines, chytrid fungus and Ranavirus. Currently, I am collaborating with Dr. Anthony Waddle at Macquarie University to apply my research on thermoregulatory behavior to amphibian conservation. We are developing methods to create artificial microhabitat structure warmer than the surrounding environment that can help amphibians clear their infections with heat.
Currently, I am researching transgenerational effects of disease in the avian mycoplasmal conjunctivitis system with Dr. Sarah DuRant. We are exploring how mothers can influence the disease outcomes in their offspring with their behavior, for example by changing egg incubation temperature.
Physiological disease ecology
Heterogeneity in disease susceptibility and infection severity among individuals and populations can have major impacts on epidemic severity. My research aims to understand the impact of host physiology on disease susceptibility to make better predictions about disease risk.
Climate change is causing shifts in temperature that alter the dynamics of host-parasite interactions. Much of my research has examined how host thermal biology can inform predictions of temperature dependent disease susceptibility. In collaborations with Dr. Jeremy Cohen, I have examined how host traits, including adapted climate (whether a species is warm- or cold-adapted) and habitat preference, can predict directional effects of temperature on wildlife disease prevalence.
Defense against infectious disease requires energetically costly immune responses. Nutritional resource quality and quantity can therefore shape host physiology and disease dynamics. Currently, I am researching the effects of macronutrient availability on host immune function and gene expression in the avian mycoplasmal conjunctivitis system.
Other ongoing projects focus on the effect of host sex on transmission dynamics and the effect of host-pathogen evolutionary history on pathogen virulence.
Urban wetland ecology
Urbanization has driven the loss of natural aquatic habitats while concurrently increasing the abundance of artificial urban ponds. While urban ponds are not typically designed for wildlife, they are often colonized by many species, including amphibians. My research, in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Preston, explores which environmental filters (temperature, landcover type, etc.) prevent certain species from persisting and how strategic management of urban ponds can provide key ecosystem services, including the conservation of amphibians that are increasingly threatened by habitat loss.