Dr. Kirsten McMillan
Affiliated PhD Student
- 2012-2017: PhD Candidate, Institute of Zoology and Laurentian University, Canada.
- 2011: Research Intern, Sampled Red List Index, Institute of Zoology.
- 2010: Science Communicator, Glasgow Science Centre.
- 2009-2010: MSc Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, Imperial College London.
- 2004-2008: BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences (Zoology), University of Edinburgh.
Emerging infectious diseases are increasingly recognized as key threats to wildlife. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the causative agent of chytridiomycosis, has been implicated in mass mortalities, population declines, and local and global extinctions of many species of amphibians around the world. As such, it is currently the largest infectious disease threat to biodiversity.
Understanding the distribution and spatial dynamics of Bd is crucial to predicting spread to new geographic areas, revealing the history of infection, and developing appropriate management strategies. One of the most striking features of Bd is the variability in outcome of infection that has been observed within a species, among populations. By identifying and comparing differences in variables that co-vary between populations exhibiting different infection characteristics, we can start to disentangle the mechanisms allowing for parasite persistence and proliferation. However, infection dynamics operate across nested levels of biological organization: within-host processes underlie among-host processes within a population.
As such, my research works within the classical themes of spatial epidemiology to consider: 1) the distribution of Bd and the evidence for spatial heterogeneity in both the prevalence and intensity of infection, and 2) the role of individual- and population-level traits in defining infection outcome. Hence, my research emphasises the importance of placing infection within the context of the local environment, as the nature and intensity of a particular host parasite interaction will be contingent upon the precise spatio-temporal pattern of both host and parasite.
Dr. Trenton Garner (Institute of Zoology)
Dr. David Lesbarrères (Laurentian University)