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Invasion and community ecology of tick-borne disease transmission in Maine

Due to the combination of climate change and an expanding human-wildlife interface accompanying land development, Maine has seen a five-fold increase in Lyme disease incidence over the past decade, and several emerging tick-borne diseases (e.g., babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Powassan virus) are on the rise. A major focus of our research is understanding the patterns and socio-ecological mechanisms of the range expansion of tick-borne disease in Maine. As part of this research, we study the impacts of climate change on the blacklegged tick life cycle, such as tick overwinter survival and host-seeking behavior.

Coupled dynamics of tourism and the spread of mosquito-borne viruses

Heterogeneity in host mobility long has been recognized as a key driver of pathogen dispersal across a range of spatial scales, but difficulty characterizing human mobility has impeded inclusion of host movement as a parameter in predictive models for mosquito-borne disease risk. Meanwhile, traveler risk perceptions of mosquito-borne viruses appear to have substantial negative economic impacts on the Central American tourism sector, yet how visitors perceive mosquito-borne disease risk and whether these risk perceptions affect actual travel behaviors remain underexplored. We are using novel data streams to characterize human mobility patterns and understand the contribution of host movement to the spread of chikungunya and Zika viruses in the Americas.


Vector-borne disease and natural resource management

Human modification of the landscape through natural resource management has great potential to impact the interactions among arthropod disease vectors and their wildlife and human hosts. We have collaborated with environmental social scientists to study feedbacks between environmental decision-making and mosquito and tick exposure risk in the context of timber harvesting and invasive plant management in Maine, freshwater management in the Bahamas, and nature-based tourism both domestically (Acadia National Park) and abroad (Guatemala). We seek to develop sustainable and effective vector management strategies that complement natural resource management goals.

Ecology and management of mosquitoes and ticks in residential settings

Roadside stormwater catch basins provide widespread aquatic habitat for production of Culex pipiens, an important mosquito vector for West Nile virus in the northeastern United States, in residential settings. We conduct research seeking to understand the ecological drivers of mosquito production in stormwater infrastructure and devise novel control strategies to manage mosquitoes in these habitats. As a founding member of the New England Regional Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease, we also participate in regional research efforts to understand the ecological factors driving residential tick densities and evaluate the efficacy of products to manage disease vector ticks.

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