How do parasites alter interactions between native and invasive species?
Mentor: Professor Meghan Duffy
Rates of parasitism and species invasions are both increasing, making it so that there are increasing numbers of outbreaks of disease that result from novel host-parasite pairings. How does parasitism influence population dynamics of native and invasive hosts? One possibility is that native parasites can provide a form of biotic resistance, slowing the spread of the invasive species. Another possibility, however, is that, if the invasive host is very tolerant of disease, it might increase disease burden, allowing infections to “spill back” into the native host. If parasite spillback occurs, population densities of the native host would be further reduced. This project will involve carrying out small- (beaker) and medium- (large bucket) scale experiments testing for parasite spillback, and quantifying the tolerance of the native and invasive host to the parasite. Other projects are also available and could be developed in consultation with individual students, based on mutual interest of the student and the lab. This work would be done on the Ann Arbor campus in the Duffy Laboratory.