Ecology and Evolution of Parasites
Research Interests: I am an evolutionary ecologist and my main interest is in host-parasite interactions. The main research focus of my lab is Lyme disease. I have also worked on malaria and sex ratio theory.
The types of research questions that I am interested in are:
Population ecology: what effect do parasites have on the vital rates (survival and reproduction) of their host population.
Evolution of host resistance: why do hosts not evolve complete resistance to parasites?
Evolution of parasite virulence: why are some parasites more deadly than others?
Population ecology of host-parasite interactions: A big question in the ecology of wildlife diseases is whether microparasites regulate their host populations. To test this critical question, requires manipulating wildlife diseases in the field.
Evolution of host resistance: Why do hosts not evolve complete resistance to parasites? One explanation is that the evolution of anti-parasite defence mechanisms often comes at the expense of other host fitness traits. For example, we recently showed that when mosquitoes evolve complete resistance to the malaria parasite they have a much slower population growth rate. I am interested in examining similar types of questions in ticks and their pathogens.
Reproductive biology of mosquitoes: One strategy to eradicate malaria is to genetically engineer a mosquito that cannot transmit the malaria parasite. The success of this strategy relies on the release of transgenic males, which do not blood feed (releasing females would be unethical). In my first postdoc, I worked on understanding the factors that influence the reproductive success of male mosquitoes.