My research interests center around the ecology of infectious diseases
and parasites and the impact these pathogens have on their hosts. Birds have
a favorite model system for host-parasite interactions for many years, and
the recent emergence of several avian viruses in humans (e.g. West Nile virus
in North America and H5N1 the “Bird Flu” in Asia) have made understanding
the dynamics of such systems particularly important.
I am currently working with Dr.
Jennifer Owen and Dr.
Mary Garvin (Oberlin
College) on a project investigating the role of migration stress and testosterone-induced
immune suppression in the recrudescence of West Nile virus (WNV, Flaviviridae,
Flavivirus) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (Togaviridae, Alphavirus)
in Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis).
Additionally, I am planning a similar project on the role of migration and
breeding hormones in the recrudescence of protozoan blood parasites (Haemoproteus spp.) in Gray Catbirds. Haemoproteus spp. are common parasites of many avian
species that are transmitted by several arthropod vectors. The initiation of
the annual cycle of transmission of Haemoproteus is not fully understood, although
it is believed that either the stress of migration or breeding or a combination
of both events acts to suppress the immune system and allow the recrudescence
of latent infections in the spring. This relapse would coincide with peaks
in vector abundance, creating a prime opportunity for the spread the parasite
throughout the avian host population (Garvin et al. 2003). My goal is to design
an experiment capable of teasing apart the influence of these factors.
My other research interests include the impact of coinfection on the level
of circulating infectious particles. For example, would a bird simultaneously
infected with a hematozoan and a virus have a higher parasitemia and viremia
than a bird infected with either one of the pathogens separately? I am also
interested in the identification of non-mosquito vectors for WNV and their
importance to the overall maintenance of the virus in the environment.
Garvin, M.C., J.P. Basbaum, R.M. Ducore, and K.E. Bell. 2003. Patterns of Haemoproteus
beckeri parasitism in the gray catbird (Dumatella carolinenesis) during the
breeding season. Journal of Wildlife Ecology. 39(3): 582-587.
Department of Biological Sciences
The University of Southern
118 College Drive # 5018