The intersection of wildlife conservation, disease, and human health

Animal Ecology In Focus

Today marks Endangered Species Day, when people around the world are encouraged to discover more about threatened species and their habitats. For conservation efforts to succeed, it is necessary to understand how animals interact with each other, with their environment – and with humans. Lauren White (University of Minnesota) addresses this by studying the idea of One Health – the intersection of human, animal, and environmental health. Here, she discusses the relevance of this to conservation. 

When I was in the third grade, I decided that I would become a field biologist who spent her time studying lemurs in Madagascar. I was particularly enraptured by aye-ayes—somewhat ungainly nocturnal lemurs with huge luminous eyes and an extremely long middle finger that aids their search for insects in rotting wood. When I found out that aye-ayes were often persecuted by local people because they were thought to bring bad luck, I was…

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Spatial disease models: picking a “useful” model for pressing ecological questions

To complement my latest review article in Journal of Animal Ecology,
here are some of my thoughts on how to pick the “right” or the most useful spatial disease model for a given problem.

Animal Ecology In Focus

Since all models are wrong the scientist cannot obtain a “correct” one by excessive elaboration. On the contrary following William of Occam he should seek an economical description of natural phenomena. Just as the ability to devise simple but evocative models is the signature of the great scientist so overelaboration and overparameterization is often the mark of mediocrity.

– George Box

Ecology is fundamentally intertwined with our understanding of processes that regulate our environment. However, we find ourselves facing unprecedented human-driven changes in our environment in the forms of urbanization, fragmentation, and climate change. With such monumental changes, we have already observed and can expect to see further differences in how pathogens emerge and spread in human and animal populations. Mathematical models can be a particularly valuable tool that help us understand how epidemics come to be, not only in the context of populations, but across landscapes. You have probably…

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