At the broadest level, my interests are public health and conservation biology.
I use multidisciplinary approaches (including molecular, serological, quantitative and phylogenetic techniques) to address how infectious diseases are maintained within their hosts and how the process of emergence occurs. More generally, I am interested in how ecological degradation and anthropogenic changes lead to increased pathogen emergence in humans and animals and how multi-disciplinary research can work to improve human and ecological health.
I am currently a Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Public Health in the Molecular Epidemiology and Public Health Laboratory (mEpiLab) at Massey University, New Zealand. Prior to this I was a Society of Conservation Biology David H Smith fellow, funded by the Cedar Tree Foundation.
For my fellowship project I am modeling the infection dynamics of White-nose syndrome, which is causing the precipitous decline of North American bats, to determine which host and pathogen traits lead to disease and population declines. This is under the academic mentorship of Dr. Colleen Webb at Colorado State University (CSU) and Dr. Juliet Pulliam at the University of Florida, and in partnership with Dr. Paul Cryan of the U.S. Geological Survey.
My Smith project developed through my time as a visiting post-doctoral researcher in Colleen's lab at CSU. This post-doctoral position came to be because we collaborate through a DHS/NIH funded Research and Policy for Infectious Disease Dynamics (RAPIDD) small mammal disease working group, which started while I was a Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellow at University of Cambridge, UK. This working group continues to be a successful collaboration and is an exciting group to be a part of. We aim to understand the underlying mechanisms of infection persistence within reservoir host populations and what leads to cross-species transmission.
My Wellcome Trust funded research project was on zoonotic pathogen ecology in wildlife, focusing on African fruit bats and their infections. This bat project started in 2007, when I won a Cambridge Infectious Diseases Consortium fellowship at Cambridge and this work is what lead to the collaboration through RAPIDD.