Identifying mechanisms driving spatiotemporal disease dynamics in converted landscapes

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: College of Medical, Veterinary, Life Sci


Around the globe, landscapes are being converted from natural habitats into a mosaic of agriculture and other human-dominated landscapes. These shifts in land use impact plant and animal species and usually lead to declines in biodiversity compared to undisturbed landscapes. Concomitant to this decline in biodiversity is a change in abundance and diversity of the pathogens that infect the animals and plants present. Transmission of a pathogen can decline or increase due to changes in availability of suitable hosts, changes in the abiotic environment, altered movement of hosts or some other impact of changing landscapes. It is timely and critical to quantify changes in pathogen burden, as there is an ongoing increase in frequency and scale of landscape conversion globally. We currently lack the ability to accurately predict the response of a particular pathogen in a landscape undergoing conversion.

In this project I will use a combination of approaches to disentangle factors affecting pathogens in changing landscapes: 1) I will establish a longitudinal survey of small mammals at sites that have been converted from natural forests to smallholder agricultural fields from 1 to 15 years prior. I will then examine how the small mammal abundance and diversity changes across time and determine how that impacts prevalence of a parasitic nematode. 2) I will investigate how the types of environments and distribution of different habitats across the regional landscape affect movement of hosts and pathogens between populations. 3) I will develop models and analyze a global database to investigate which underlying host, parasite, and environmental traits are important for predicting short-term responses to land conversion. This approach is expected to lead to an improved understanding of how pathogen transmission is altered in dynamic landscapes and provide a better ability to predict how transmission may change in the future, particularly with different anthropogenic induced land use change.


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Description LOreal-Unesco For Women in Science
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Organisation United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 
Sector Academic/University
Country France
Start 06/2022 
End 07/2023
Description NEOF Pilot Genomics Competition
Amount £7,906 (GBP)
Funding ID NEOF No: 1486 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2022 
End 01/2023
Description Cary Institute 
Organisation Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I provide expertise in genomic datasets, in particular those relevant to rodent-borne diseases.
Collaborator Contribution Partners provide expertise in machine learning.
Impact We have submitted an NSF-BBSRC UK-US Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease Grant- the outcome is still pending.
Start Year 2021
Description Vector Control Division, Ministry of Health, Uganda 
Organisation Ministry of Health, Uganda
Department Vector Control Division
Country Uganda 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Trained technicians in field and laboratory techniques. Provide advice and expertise on epidemiological modelling and zoonoses.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborators provide field support and translate research findings to local, regional and national stakeholders.
Impact Prior to my fellowship, we had several joint publications. New outputs are forthcoming.
Start Year 2016