With a lifelong enthusiasm for animal behavior, I conducted my undergraduate thesis on male mate choice in a Panamanian fiddler crab. After exposure to disease ecology research, I grew fascinated with how infectious diseases affect wildlife and human communities. I also became intrigued by the ability of mathematical modeling and systems thinking to shed new light on applied problems in ecology and epidemiology. My research now spans multiple systems but is united under an overarching theme: the integration of mathematical and statistical models with empirical data to understand infectious disease processes and how to control them.
HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa
Much of my postdoctoral work focuses on better understanding population-wide trends of HIV transmission in the sub-Saharan African HIV epidemic. Specifically, I am investigating how HIV transmission during various stages in an individual's relationship history (single, coupled) contribute to new HIV infections as well as to the creation of serodiscordant couples (i.e., couples with one HIV-positive and one HIV-negative partner) and how to use this information to target interventions.
Anthrax in Etosha National Park
Continuing from work begun during my PhD with Wayne Getz at UC Berkeley, I am developing empirical and analytical methods to estimate anthrax incidence in zebra and other herbivores of Etosha National Park, Namibia in order to assess the causes and consequences of this disease. These methods involve integrating data from several spatiotemporal scales including GPS animal movement, opportunistic surveillance, population survey, and camera trap data sets. Anthrax is a naturally occurring fatal disease of mammals caused by the spore-forming bacteria Bacillus anthracis and is responsible for substantial numbers of deaths in herbivores (both livestock and wildlife) worldwide. While anthrax usually causes episodic outbreaks after being absent for many years, in Etosha outbreaks occur annually.
I also study interactions between anthrax and scavengers. Carcasses produced during outbreaks pulses carrion to a hungry (and anthrax-tolerant) scavenger community and, depending on outbreak predictability, may affect their overall ecology. Specifically, I am exploring how anthrax outbreaks affect black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) movement, foraging decisions, and subsequent implications for rabies virus and canine distemper virus epidemiology in carnivores.
Concurrent with my PhD program, I completed a Masters in Public Health in Epidemiology. For my Master's Thesis, noting new empirical studies demonstrating that mosquitoes senesce (i.e., die of old age), I investigated how the success of Aedes mosquito control measures (aimed at managing of arboviral diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever) is affected by this increase in mortality with mosquito age.