In August and September, three new folks joined the lab! Kris McIntire and Syuan-Jyun Sun are new postdocs in the lab. Kris joins us from Illinois State University, where she completed her PhD. Sun received his PhD from Cambridge, then did a postdoc at National Taiwan University. Teresa Sauer is a new PhD student in the lab, joining us from Fairfield University in Connecticut. We’re very excited to have them in the lab!
Congratulations to Michelle Fearon who received the Best Student Paper Award from the Disease Ecology Section of the Ecological Society of America! The award is for Michelle’s 2021 Ecology paper on the dilution effect in pollinator communities, based on her work as a graduate student in the Tibbetts Lab at UMich. You can read more about her study here.
Former Duffy Lab graduate student Clara Shaw is the recipient of the 2021 Thomas M. Frost Award for Excellence in Graduate Research from ESA’s Aquatic Ecology section! Clara received the award for her 2020 Ecology paper, “Shedding light on environmentally transmitted parasites: lighter conditions within lakes restrict epidemic size”. Clara’s study focused on the influence of light on disease outbreaks. Clara’s study focused on two common parasites of Daphnia dentifera, the fungus Metschnikowia bicuspidata and the bacterium Pasteuria ramosa. Clara used an experiment to show that Metschnikowia and Pasteuria are both sensitive to visible light and UV radiation and that Metschnikowia is more sensitive than Pasteuria. She then analyzed field data from Indiana and Michigan to show that these differences in sensitivity can explain variation in the timing and severity of outbreaks of these two pathogens: epidemics of the less sensitive parasite (the bacterium, Pasteuria) started earlier in the fall (under higher ambient light), and both parasites had smaller outbreaks in more transparent lakes. Clara’s study suggests that light environment may impact the timing and size of disease outbreaks. This is important because it means that disease outbreaks might be exacerbated by human activities that darken waters, including lake browning associated with climate change and eutrophication.
Congratulations to Clara on receiving this prestigious award!!!
We wanted to update you on a few new publications from the lab!
Clara Shaw is the lead author on a new paper out in Parasitology based on her dissertation research! Becca Bilich and Bruce O’Brien are coauthors on this based on their work as undergraduates in the lab. The study finds phenotypic and genotypic variation in Metschnikowia bicuspidata — something we’ve looked for in the past but previously been unable to detect! Clara found that genotypic variation in Metsch is associated with host species, lake, and spore size. Here’s a graphical abstract:
Patrick Clay is the lead author on a new paper out in Ecology! This paper focuses on dose-response relationships (e.g., dose-infectivity relationships, where the likelihood of becoming infected depends on the dose of the parasite to which a host is exposed). We know these are common, but existing theory on multihost parasites does not incorporate these relationships. In this paper, we first performed a meta-analysis of published dose-infectivity experiments, finding that most experiments demonstrated decelerating (i.e., saturating) dose-infectivity relationships. We then asked how dose-response relationships alter the impact of a second host species on disease in a focal host. We found that dose relationships can increase or decrease the impact of a second host species, and also that they can create positive feedback loops that facilitate friendly competition.
Nina Wale is the lead author on a new paper out in American Naturalist! This paper explores the use — and underuse! — of model systems in studies of the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases. In this paper, we turn to theory to guide us to the fundamental processes that underlie disease dynamics — transmission, disease, and recovery. In reviewing 10 key model systems, we find that they rarely consider recovery, because the systems are ones in which hosts cannot recover. Moreover, studies tend to focus on only a few scales of biological organization. In this paper, we hope to begin a discussion of what we want from model systems in EEID. We’re gratified that this paper seems to be resonating, including by receiving a recommendation on Faculty Opinions from Mario Recker, who describes it as a “great and thought-provoking read”.
Congrats, Clara, Patrick, Nina, and coauthors!
Today is the first day in the lab for our new technician, Siobhan Calhoun! Siobhan just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in Biology and minored in Fine Arts and English. We’re very excited to have her in the lab!
We had a lab gathering yesterday to welcome Siobhan and Kira (our new lab manager, who began last week) and to thank Becca (who will be heading off to med school soon) for all she’s done for the lab over the years. The weather was gorgeous and we actually remembered to take a group photo (it’s a miracle!)
Becca and Libby have been out sampling and deploying thermistor chains this week, and got some photos we wanted to share!
Three Duffy Lab folks have moved (or will soon move) on to positions in public health! In order of leaving the lab:
Camden Gowler (PhD 2020) is now a Public Health Analyst at the CDC in Atlanta. He’s working in the Division of Healthcare and Quality Promotion, and is currently deployed on the COVID response. This position lets Camden apply his disease ecology skills in an applied public health setting.
Laura Lopez (postdoc 2018-2021) just began a position with the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance in Australia, where she is working as a research officer in their AusVaxSafety unit. This will let Laura apply her data analysis and research skills to monitoring COVID vaccines in Australia.
Patrick Clay (postdoc 2019-2021) will begin a Steven M. Teutsch Prevention Effectiveness Fellowship at the CDC later this summer, where he will work in the Division of STD Prevention. This fellowship brings people with strong quantitative skills to the CDC, and will let Patrick take his disease modeling skills and apply them to STDs in people.
We’re sad about Camden, Laura, and Patrick leaving the lab, but also really excited about their new positions!
Today is the first day in the lab for our new lab manager, Kira Monell, and for our REU student, Varun Ravichandran. Welcome, Kira and Varun! Kira recently received her Masters from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, where she studied the ecophysiology of copepods, carrying out field work in Alaska. Varun is a UMich undergraduate who is majoring in Movement Science and minoring in Applied Statistics. We’re excited about having both of them in the lab!
Today is also the first day of field season! In addition to carrying out our normal sampling, Becca and Libby are deploying thermistor chains that relate to a project Libby is leading this summer. Here’s a picture of one thermistor chain that is ready to be deployed — it turns out the field cages in the basement of BSB provide convenient holds for thermistor chain construction! More pictures coming later once Becca & Libby are back from the field!
Michelle recently did an interview with WKAR, Michigan State University’s NPR station. She was talking about her dissertation research (published in Ecology) looking at how the diversity of bees and other pollinators relates to the frequency of three common viruses in the region.
Here’s a link to the WKAR story, here’s a UMich news story about her study, here’s a piece by The Wildlife Society, and here’s a link to a recent talk that Michelle recently gave hosted by Michigan State University Extension.