Why Disease Ecology?

Infectious diseases play a critical role in the dynamics and stability of populations, communities, and ecosystems, and are an increasingly important conservation and public health concern. The Budischak lab works across scales from physiology to community ecology to understand how environmental context affects how organisms respond to and cope with parasitic infection.

Organisms must balance investment in immunological defenses against a suite of parasites while simultaneously optimizing resource allocation to other fitness-related traits like growth and reproduction. Environmental quality will affect two key components of transmission used in epidemiological models: contact rate and the likelihood of transmission given contact. However, what might be good for individuals (e.g. surviving longer) might be bad for population-level parasite transmission. Accordingly, a cross-scale understanding of these processes is necessary for understanding variation in infection, and for predicting how host and parasite populations will respond to environmental changes. Research in the Budischak lab addresses questions relevant for human, animal, and ecological health.

Interested in learning more?

If you are interested in gaining research experience during the school year or over the summer, read the Research webpage, maybe check out a publication or two, and send Prof. Budischak an email.