Distingued Research Professor
University of Georgia
This award will provide support for the special symposium, Population Biology of Vector-borne Diseases, which will be held February 24th, 2018 in Athens, GA. In recent years, the emergence of viruses such as West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, and Zika virus have led to public health crises in several countries including the United States. The new problems introduced by these emerging diseases, coupled with the continued devastation caused by diseases such as malaria and dengue, have led to rapid development in the study of vector-borne diseases. This symposium is expected to result in increased understanding of the mechanisms in which vector-borne diseases spread, evolve and respond to host conditions, as well as provide a catalyst for future collaborative research across disciplines. This will in turn promote new strategies for vector-borne disease prediction, management, and elimination. The majority of the requested funds will be used in partial support of the travel costs for presenting scientists and to provide travel scholarships to students who may otherwise face barriers to participation. Efforts will be made to recruit participants of under-represented groups. The work discussed in this symposium will be published as Population Biology of Vector-borne Diseases, the second volume in the new Oxford series Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases, and will serve as the only comprehensive survey of this field. Vector-borne pathogens of animals and plants are key areas of study across a variety of disciplines and perspectives. From an applied perspective, many vector-borne pathogens cause severe disease, which results in high economic and social costs, while from a fundamental perspective the complex interactions that evolve between vector organisms, pathogens, and terminal hosts have provided key insights on how pathogens function and evolve. In the case of vector borne diseases of humans, studies of malaria and dengue remain national priorities while emerging viruses have introduced new scientific questions and practical problems. While a diversity of applied therapeutic initiatives are in progress, many important organismal and suborganismal questions remain unclear and hinder understanding of disease transmission and evolution. Addressing these questions requires expertise in multiple scientific disciplines and integrative approaches to future research, thus presenting an imminent need for forums that bring together scientists and students across disciplines to synthesize information and plan for future research. The symposium, Population Biology of Vector-borne Diseases, will bring together a group of leading scientists in the study of vector-borne diseases, representing multiple countries and both industry and academic sectors. Collectively, these speakers represent a multitude of perspectives including biology, ecology, veterinary medicine, entomology, epidemiology, biostatistics, computer science and geography. This symposium will provide a forum for scientists and students to synthesize existing knowledge across disciplines, develop a vision for future research, and initiate plans for future collaborative studies from an integrative biology perspective.