1. Community dynamics of infectious disease. Simple compartmental models of infectious disease provide a theoretical basis for understanding of how epidemic and endemic diseases spread through host populations. Extending these models to accommodate more complicated biological realities is challenging. In particular, progressing from models with one host species and/or one pathogen to scenarios with multiple hosts and multiple pathogens requires a fundamentally different mathematical approach. I am excited to be part of a collaborative research effort to use the model system of barley yellow dwarf virus in grasses to build an understanding of community disease dynamics. The website here provides more information about this project.
2. Reciprocal impacts of biological diversity and ecological functioning . Two of the oldest and most enduring goals of ecology are (a) to elucidate how the biological diversity of natural communities impacts ecological processes and dynamics and (b) to identify the determinants of biological diversity in those communities. On the face of it, progress on both of these questions seems to suggest that ecological productivity (e.g., the conversion of abiotic nutrient inputs into biological matter) is both a cause and consequence of biological diversity. The reconciliation of these strikingly different perspectives poses a unique and compelling theoretical challenge. This project is joint work with Brad Cardinale at the University of Michigan.
3. Transgenic pest control. Genetic technologies offer new promises for regulating abundances of unwanted pest species. Mathematical modeling will be a key component of the design of successful pest-control strategies using transgenic methods. NCSU has recently been awared an NSF IGERT grant to train graduate students in the social, biological, and technical aspects of genetic pest management. The website here provides more information about this project.