- Infectious disease epidemiology, molecular biology, and disease ecology and evolution.
- Bayesian statistical analyses.
- Scientific, technical, grant application, and popular press writing.
- Biomedical research, application, and development.
- Microbiology, parasitology, and host-parasite interactions.
- Diagnostic development.
- Biosafety level 3.
Undisclosed University, Director, Present
Evolution - Ecology - Diseases
Associate Professor of Biology
- Investigate the ecology (interactions affecting distribution and abundance) and evolution (change in geno- and phenotype due to neutral or selected processes) of disease causing organisms and their natural host populations.
- Research and study organisms that cause disease in humans and agriculturally important species such as West Nile virus, wheat rust, and Lyme disease. Understanding the natural biology of these organisms is a crucial step in the long-term control of diseases.
- Focused research on the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, in forest in the Northeastern United States. B. burgdorferi is carried among vertebrate hosts by the black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis.
- With focus on the interactions between these host species and B. burgdorferi genotypes that affect the fitness and dynamics of pathogen population. The fitness of B. burgdorferi, as measured by the number of new ticks that acquire the pathogen, is equivalent to the human risk of contracting Lyme disease.
- Identified-discovery of each vertebrate species can host only a subset of the B. burgdorferi genotypes, but the genotype subset hosted differs among species. Thus, all fifteen genotypes coexist in northeastern forests as a multiple niche polymorphism where vertebrate species act as niches - the genetic diversity of the pathogen is maintained by the biodiversity of hosts. In addition, the abundance of each genotype in ticks - equivalent to the human Lyme disease risk - is directly related to the composition and relative abundance of host species.
- Lab work is not limited to ecology or B. burgdorferi. Current projects include data-based modeling, molecular evolution, experimental evolution, and public health research.
- Invite studies of any sort that are hypothesis driven and involve the interactions between a microbe and a eukaryote. These interactions need not be pathogenic, mutualistic relationships are equally interesting and often follow a similar theoretical framework.
Scientific Studies and Statistics - Funded Projects
Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 2013 - 2018
- Evolution of Original Antigenic Sin in Lyme Disease
- Examine the molecular and evolutionary mechanisms that allow Borrelia burgdorferi to persist in hosts at elevated densities and ultimately cause the severe symptoms of chronic Lyme disease.
NSF Population and Community Ecology, 2014 - 2017
- Ecological consequences of the effects of a zoonotic pathogen on its reservoir host.
- Examine the effects of Borrelia burgdorferi - a widespread, zoonotic pathogen of humans - on a key reservoir host, the white-footed mouse (Peroymscus leucopus).
Lyme Research Alliance and Bay Area Lyme Foundation, 2015 - 2016
- Effective Lyme Disease Diagnostic
- Develop a new laboratory and ultimately a point-of-care platform for diagnosing Lyme disease during early and late-stage infections.
National Institutes of Health (NIAID), 2015 - 2020
- Great Ape Reservoirs of Human Malaria
- Determine the pathways that led to the emergence of malaria (Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax) in humans from great ape ancestors.
National Institutes of Health (NIAID), 2008 - 2012
- Causes and consequences of ospC variation in Borrelia burgdorferi to Lyme disease
- The molecular factors that determine the population genetic structure of the outer surface protein C in the Lyme disease bacterium.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008 - 2012
- Reservoir Targeted Vaccine for the Control of Lyme Borreliosis
- Testing an oral immunization delivery system that can be safely deployed into the wild in Lyme disease endemic areas.
Honors & Publications
- French - reading and writing
- Spanish - reading and writing
Academic and Professional Affiliations
- Associate Professor, Biology Department
- Director, Evolution and Ecology of Disease Systems Laboratory.
- Editor, Infection, Genetics and Evolution
- Associate Editor, Frontiers in Microbiology, Frontiers in Genetics and Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution; Evolutionary and Genomic Microbiology section
- Editorial Board, International Journal of Evolution
- Editorial Board, ISRN Infectious Diseases
- Burroughs Wellcome Fellow
- National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
- NSF-REU fellow
- Pieper Research Fellowship
- National Institutes of Health awarded research grants (3)
- National Science Foundation awarded research grant
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention awarded research grant
Publications and Patents
- Author and Co-Author of approximately 50 publications
- Domestic and International Presentations
- 1 U.S. patent
- Ph.D. Evolutionary Biology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY
- B.S. Biology, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA