I am a biologist with an interest in infectious diseases from evolutionary and immunological perspectives.
I study influenza A viruses, which naturally circulate in wild waterfowl, but which also spill over into several mammalian species, sometimes causing devastating outbreaks or pandemics. In my previous work, I studied the transmission dynamics and evolution of this virus in wild birds and livestock. Now, as a BBSRC Discovery Fellow, I am studying its evolution and pathogenicity in marine mammals. I focus specifically on two closely-related species of pinnipeds: grey and harbour seals – which happen to exhibit dramatically distinct outcomes due to viral infections.
The idea is to use the avian-seal interface as a kind of “natural experiment” to study how avian influenza adapts to mammals, and the mechanisms underpinning the variation in host susceptibility to disease. This research can help us anticipate and respond to wildlife disease outbreaks and potentially, future pandemics.