PhD Student (completed)
Gillian Eastwood has now left ZSL.
- 2007-2012: PhD Student, Institute of Zoology and University of Leeds.
- 2007: Senior Forest Scientist, Operation Wallacea, Honduras.
- 2006-2007 and 2002-2004: Wildlife Crime Intelligence Analyst, National Wildlife Crime Unit (formerly NWCIU – National Criminal Intelligence Service).
- 2006: Volunteer Biologist, Costa Rica.
- 2005-2006: MRes Environmental Biology (Distinction), University of St.Andrews [Habitat modelling of Sulawesi endemic avifauna].
- 2004-2005: Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Stirling.
- 2001: Khao Yai Conservation Program Volunteer, WildAid, Thailand.
My main interest is the ecology of vector-borne disease. My current research explores the risks associated with the arrival of an emerging infectious disease (West Nile virus [WNV]) to a novel ecosystem. The Galápagos Islands of Ecuador provide a model system to study the spread of this particular pathogen as WNV is currently believed absent from the region; the virus furthermore poses a conservation threat to the unique and highly endemic wildlife found here. Declines in several USA bird populations are attributed to WNV therefore the risk posed to Galapagos fauna is of immediate concern. Using disease risk assessment methodology I am investigating the potential consequences for WNV ecology within Galapagos, addressing factors within the complex virus-vector-host-environment interactions that influence WNV transmission.
More specifically my research looks at:
1) Vector Ecology – this includes seasonal abundance & distribution of mosquito species with a potential vector role (namely strains of Aedes taeniorhynchus or Culex quinquefasciatus found in Galapagos). Characteristics of vector life-cycle and reproduction (including longevity, oviposition cycles & predictive modelling of larval habitat). Influence of abiotic & ecological factors on the above.
2) Vector-Host interactions – mosquito blood-feeding behaviour and frequency of contact. This indicates the vertebrate species most likely to be exposed to WNV therefore vulnerable to morbidity or with a potential role in virus amplification.
3) Vector-Virus interaction – testing the ‘vector competency’ of the above mosquitoes, i.e. how easily can they become infected with and transmit WNV.
4) Surveillance in bird species – serological evidence of antibodies to WNV is sought in live birds, as well as any indication of WNV within dead avian tissue – to address the status of WNV activity both in Galapagos and around the mainland region of Guayaquil. This work focuses on airport vicinities since of all pathways WNV is most likely to arrive via an infected mosquito on human-mediated plane transport.
As global transport networks increase, the movement of invasive organisms arriving to climatically similar but previously unconnected locations becomes more apparent. The risk of mosquitoes, or the pathogens they transmit, establishing in new areas is increasing.
Galapagos is a volcanic archipelago located 600 miles west of continental South America. Isolated for 1-3 million years, a stunning range of unusual endemic fauna has evolved. It is a unique ecosystem valued both ecologically, and economically as a popular tourist destination. The Islands are recognised as a World Heritage Site (UNESCO). Galapagos however faces increasing pressures such as anthropogenic activity which removes the barriers of ecological isolation and can introduce non-native species including disease agents. Island wildlife has evolved without exposure to most pathogens which likely makes them immunologically naïve, and therefore potentially highly susceptible to novel pathogens such as WNV.
West Nile virus is a mosquito-transmitted flavivirus that has a wide host-range of birds, reptiles and mammals (including humans). The virus amplifies to the highest levels in birds which are the main host class involved in enzootic cycling of WNV; mammals can still suffer morbidity but are usually incidental ‘dead-end’ hosts due to low viremias. Since first isolation in 1937, WNV had relatively little impact since until 1996 when unprecedented severity was observed from 1996 along with dramatic range expansion after emerging to the USA (New York) in 1999. The virus spread rapidly across the Americas and is now found on six continents. Although detected in South America WNV is currently believed absent in Galapagos; the status of WNV within mainland Ecuador (the principal point of connection to the Islands) also remains to be determined thus I am addressing epidemiological distribution by means of avian serosurveys.
Dr Andrew Cunningham (Institute of Zoology)
Dr Simon Goodman (University of Leeds)
My PhD is funded by NERC
Eastwood,G., Kramer,LD., Goodman,SJ., Cunningham,AA. (2011) "West Nile Virus Vector Competency in Culex quinquefasciatus in the Galápagos Islands" American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene. Vol. 85 Issue 3 426-433.
Bataille, A., Cunningham, A.A., Cedeño, V., Cruz, M., Eastwood, G., Fonseca, D.M., Causton, C.E., Azuero, R., Loayza, J., Cruz Martinez, J.D. & Goodman, S.J. (2009) "Evidence for regular ongoing introductions of mosquito disease vectors into the Galápagos Islands". Proc. R. Soc. B (published online 12 August 2009, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0998)