Every animal hosts a community of organisms that influence its behavior, physiology, and fitness. My research integrates field work, laboratory studies and molecular tools to understand the structure, function and stability of host-symbiont interactions and how they respond to changing exposure and environments. Please see the publications page for a full list of previous work.
How do toxins impact symbiont communities?
Animal diets often contain natural toxins. These toxin interactions can shape the ecology and evolution of both hosts and their symbionts. Current projects on toxin feeding and toxin sequestering mammals examine how wild rodents interact with natural toxins, and how exposure influences symbiotic bacterial and helminth communities. Study systems include herbivorous woodrats (Neotoma spp.), monarch munching mice (Reithrodotomys and Peromyscus spp.), and giant poisonous African rats (Lophiomys imhausi).
Are parasite-microbiome interactions predictable?
Animals are shared habitat for both microbes and multicellular parasites, and the interactions between these symbionts remain an unexplored frontier with implications for human and animal health. Ongoing research includes work with both model systems (e.g. Mus and its nematode Heligmosomoides) and wild rodents to study how infection alters microbiome structure and function, and how the microbiome influences parasite establishment and fitness.
How do infectious agents respond to changing landscapes?
In increasingly modified landscapes, perturbations like habitat fragmentation, loss of large wildlife, and introduced species alter disease transmission and facilitate the emergence of novel parasites. Managing disease risk requires understanding parasite ecology, and how transmission differs as conditions change. My research examines these topics in systems ranging from raccoons in California to rodents in Kenya.