I received my B.S. in Biological Sciences from Cornell University in 2000. After a brief stint working as a field technician in Antarctica, I moved to the Kellogg Biological Station and Michigan State University for graduate school. I received my Ph.D. in zoology and ecology, evolutionary biology and behavior from MSU in 2006. From there, I moved to the University of Wisconsin for my postdoctoral research, which was supported by an NSF postdoctoral fellowship in biological informatics. From 2008-2012, I was an assistant professor in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech. I will join the EEB faculty in August 2012.
My research focuses on the ecology and evolution of host-parasite interactions, with a particular focus on freshwater systems. I am especially interested in the intersection of ecology and evolutionary biology, including how rapid evolution affects host-parasite interactions, and how ecological context influences host-parasite evolution. My research uses a combination of observational studies of natural populations and communities, manipulative experiments in the lab and field, and mathematical models. Most of my research focuses on the ecologically important freshwater crustacean Daphnia as host; Daphnia have long been a model system in ecology and evolutionary biology, and are emerging as a model organism for studies of host-parasite interactions.
Specific Areas of Current Research:
1. Influences of food webs on host-parasite interactions
Much of my research has focused in the influences of predation on host-parasite interactions. This includes studies focused both on direct effects of predators (particularly related to selective predation on infected hosts) and on indirect effects of predators (e.g., trait-mediated indirect effects of predators on epidemiologically important traits).
2. Eco-evolutionary dynamics in host-parasite interactions
Traditionally, ecological dynamics were thought to be fast, while evolutionary dynamics were thought to be slow. As a result, ecologists believed they could safely ignore the effects of evolution on ecological dynamics. Recently, however, it has become clear that evolution can occur on ecological timescales, and can have strong influences on ecological dynamics. Such "eco-evolutionary dynamics" are an emerging area of research in ecology, and much of my research has focused on eco-evolutionary host-parasite dynamics. In my research, I have documented that host populations can evolve rapidly in response to parasitism; recently, we showed that the nature of rapid evolution of host populations is determined by the predation and productivity environment, via effects of ecological context on the size of epidemics. I have also considered the implications of rapid evolution for ecological dynamics, showing that rapid evolution of host populations can terminate epidemics and lead to cryptic population dynamics.
3. Multihost, multiparasite interactions
Most hosts are infected by multiple parasite species, and most parasites can infect multiple host species. However, while multihost, multiparasite interactions dominate in nature, they have received very little study. This is in part due to the intractability of most multihost, multiparasite systems. Daphnia provide a powerful system for multihost, multiparasite studies, since we can easily maintain multiple host and parasite species in the lab. Our current work addresses questions such as 1) What constraints do parasites face when infecting multiple host species? 2) How do parasites shift to a novel host species (including invasive host species)? 3) How does parasitism influence the population dynamics of native and invasive hosts? and 4) What are the consequences for hosts and parasites of infections by multiple parasite species?
Bio 171: Introductory Biology
BIO 120: First Year Seminar: Ecological and Evolutionary Medicine