Research in the Rohani Lab focuses on population biology, usually of host-natural enemy interactions, with a view to understanding fundamental processes in population ecology and evolution. First, we use a combination of mathematical modelling and data analysis to understand the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases of humans, including childhood infections and emerging infectious diseases. Second, we use a combination of laboratory experiments and statistical and mathematical models to understand the evolution, persistence and competitive coexistence of insect-parasitoid-pathogen assemblages.
Dynamics of human infectious diseases
Much of current research in the lab is based on understanding long term data sets on the spatio-temporal patterns of morbidity and mortality caused by the great childhood microparasitic infections (such as measles and whooping cough). The analyses of these data have provided interesting insights into the mechanisms of disease transmission and the ecology of infectious diseases.
We have established laboratory populations of insect host-parasitoid-pathogen assemblages. This work is in collaboration with Dr. Steve Sait(Department of Biology, University of Leeds, UK). We are studying the Indian meal moth, Plodia interpunctella (a stored-product pest) and its competitor, the Almond moth, Ephestia cautella. Both species are subject to attack by a suite of natural enemies, including a solitary ichneumonid wasp (Venturia canescens) and and two species of baculoviruses (the P. interpunctella granulovirus and E. cautella nucleopolyhedrovirus; PiGV and EcNPV respectively).
See the Rohani Lab website to read more.
EEB 315: Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases
This course provides an introduction to the field of infectious disease ecology and evolution, an area of study that has developed rapidly over the past 30 years and addresses some of the most significant challenges to human health and conservation. Students will obtain an appreciation for the incredible diversity of parasitic organisms, the most abundant life forms on the planet, and examine the processes of parasite invasion and spread through populations. Throughout, an emphasis will be placed on providing a quantitative understanding of infectious disease dynamics. Students will gain a basic understanding of the population biology of micro- and macro-parasites, mechanisms of transmission and causes and consequences of ecological and genetic heterogeneity. Specific topics include types of pathogens and their ecological properties, epidemiology and impacts on host populations, evolution of resistance and virulence, role of ecology and evolution in the emergence of new diseases, parasites in the context of ecological communities, within-host dynamics and the ecology of immunity, population-level consequences of control measures and the role of parasites in biodiversity and conservation.
COMPLXSYS 430: Modeling Infectious Diseases
This course will provide an introduction to a number of modeling approaches and issues relevant to understanding infectious diseases. Its intended audience is both quantitative students interested in infectious disease systems and biologists keen to learn a variety of modeling techniques. Motivated by specific real-world systems, we will explore how we may use mathematical and computational models (I) to develop a basic understanding of the transmission, spread and evolution of pathogens and (II) to examine how this information may be used to evaluate alternative control strategies. Starting from the simplest models, we will consider ways in which they may be extended to take into account factors such
as variation in individual contact patterns, spatial dynamics, seasonality, evolution and insect vectors. Each lecture will be accompanied by a computer lab during which models will be programmed and analysed in Matlab.