Infectious disease dynamics
How do temperature and host behavioral type influence disease susceptibility?
The emergence and spread of infectious diseases are of great concern to the health of humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. Determining the factors that influence disease risk and spread has been a topic of great interest, particularly in the wake of rapidly changing environments and their dramatic effects on parasites and their hosts. Climate warming is one factor of primary importance that is predicted to shift parasite boundaries and has been shown to increase parasite release, infection success, and growth across multiple taxa.
Behavior is another crucial factor that may interact with the environment to significantly impact disease dynamics. Foraging, locomotion, aggression, among other behaviors can be temperature dependent and affect rates of parasite exposure and transmission. These effects may be especially pronounced among individuals that exhibit a behavioral type (whereby correlated behaviors are consistent across time and varous contexts). A number of empirical studies have shown that animals characterized by a bolder, more active, risk-taking phenotype often harbor different intensities and species of parasites than those exhibiting a shy, less active, more risk-averse phenotype.
We are currently testing how environmental temperature and fish personality interact to influence rates of infection with trematode parasites.
We are also investigating how environmental temperature influences trematode actvity and space use.