Our Bozeman Disease Ecology Group meets weekly -- our group includes the Cross Lab (USGS), as well as folks from MT Fish Wildlife and Parks, Penn State University, and Wildlife Conservation Society.
Raina Plowright, Ph.D.
I am an infectious disease ecologist, epidemiologist, and wildlife veterinarian. After training as a veterinarian in Australia, I worked as a domestic animal and wildlife veterinarian in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and Antarctica. I did a Ph.D. in Ecology and M.S. in Epidemiology at the University of California, Davis and a postdoc at the Center for Infectious Disease Dyanmics at Pennsylvania State University.
David Paez, Ph.D., Postdoc
David joins us from The University of Chicago. He is working on disease models to understand the mechanisms by which Hendra virus persist among flying fox populations in Australia. An interesting detail of this system is that Hendra virus, while potentially fatal to non-chiropteran hosts, does not seem to have strong fitness effects on bats. Furthermore, data of Hendra virus prevalence over time does not fit the predictions from standard SIR models, suggesting that processes other than transmission are also contributing to these dynamics. An objective of David's research will therefore be to contrast alternative disease models against prevalence data to identify such processes.
Katie Haase, Ph.D., Postdoc
Katie joins us as a postdoc on the white-nose syndrome project using a mechanistic survivorship model based on the host bioenergetics, the growth of the pathogen that causes WNS, and the changing environment. By collecting baseline morphometric and energetic data from at least 5 bat species and microclimate data from across the western US, Katie and her collaborators hope to evaluate the presence of WNS and determine areas of risk and refugia. Before coming to Montana, Katie earned her PhD from the University of Florida, her MS from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and her BS inWildlife Biology from Unity College in Maine. Katie's research interests tend to focus on anything related to spatial ecology and animal energetics. Her interests stem from her overall questions about how changing landscapes affect animal processes, particularly how spatial patterns of microclimate shape animal behavior.
Gerardo Martin, M.S., Research Associate
Gerardo is a vet scientist with a masters degree in conservation biology. He is about to complete his PhD studying the ecological factors that affect risk of Hendra virus spillover to horses. The processes that he has studied are mostly related to the effects of climate on Hendra virus survival and on the fruit bat hosts of the virus.
Maureen Kessler, M.S., Ph.D. Student
Maureen joins the lab from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and is broadly interested in the ecology of zoonotic pathogens. For her dissertation, she will be using an interdisciplinary approach across scales to investigate the dynamics of Hendra virus in reservoir populations of Australian fruit bats. More specifically, Maureen is using fieldwork and model-based approaches to investigate energetics and decision-making in bat foraging strategies between remnant native forest and the urban environments where virus spillover occurs. Concurrently, she is analyzing patterns of viral diversity within and between colonies for signatures of the epidemiological mechanisms driving Hendra virus phylodynamics in bat populations.
Devin Jones, M.S., Ph.D. Student
Devin earned her Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee where she developed a passion for bats. She assisted with fieldwork and lab work examining the winter behavior and dietary habits of southern bats. Her Master of Science research at Grand Valley State University focused on the trophic transfer of a naturally occurring cyanotoxin, microcystin, from a freshwater lake to little brown bats. Outside of her Master’s research, she collaborates with Dr. Amy Russell (GVSU) and Veronica Brown (UT) to analyze dietary habits of bats using Next Generation Sequencing.
German Botto, M.S., Ph.D. Student
German is on a Latin American Fulbright Fellowship. German specializes in bat ecology, disease dynamics and epidemiology. He is a member of the IUCN Bat Specialist Group and has extensive field, bat detection, disease modeling, and GIS experience. See more details here.
Nathan Justice, Research Associate
Nathan, returning to his hometown, joins the lab from Tufts University. His interests lie in the overlap between ecology and computer science. Specifically, he is interested in developing computational tools to facilitate research in ecosystem dynamics. A representative project of his is EcoApps – a series of web applications, developed for Harvard University, used to assist researchers investigate various ecosystem models and perform tipping point and early warning signal analyses. At the Plowright lab, Nathan assists members of the team with various computational tasks, such as model implementation, data visualizations, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analytics.
Daniela Weber, Undergraduate McNair Scholar
Daniela is working with Dr. Raina Plowright and Dr. Jovanka Voyich to investigate mechanisms driving chronic carriage in bighorn sheep. Daniela is a Montana State McNair Scholar!
Christina Faust, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Christina joined us for a short-term postdoc between Princeton University and University of Oxford to work on models of pathogen spillover across changing landscapes. Additionally, she investigated the effects of habitat loss on pathogen dynamics in multi-host communities.