As a fledgling disease ecologist and evolutionary biologist, I am dipping my toes into a variety of wildlife and lab-based systems to feel out the system(s) which work best to ask the questions that get me excited. What gets me excited? Learning about energetic trade-offs that come with defense strategies, be it associating with defensive mutualists or upregulating an adaptive immune response. Applying evolutionary concepts to real life problems, like understanding drug resistance evolution or mutualism persistence to predict population and community level consequences. Eco-Immunology. Endocrine and immune system cross-talk. Heterogeneity in hosts that get and spread disease.
Systems I am currently exploring:
-An ant-plant system with reproductive parasites and defensive mutualists in the Chihuahuan desert (pictured above). See my in press publication in Ecology here. “Balancing anti-herbivore benefits and anti-pollinator costs of defensive mutualists.” Ohm and Miller.
-Malaria -I am using rodent malaria as a model system to understand sex differences in infection and drug resistance evolution. Future directions will explore other host factors that impact patterns of heterogeneity in drug resistance emergence. I am also interested in exploring the vector-side of the system to ask what host factors not only contribute to the emergence of resistance but contribute to transmission potential based on vector attraction.
-Bighorn Sheep Pneumonia – I am working as a field tech for a project run through the Bighorn Disease Research Consortium, a tri-state collaboration between Oregon, Idaho and Washington. I am learning valuable field skills while experiencing the challenges and limitations of working on wild mammals as compared to my more familiar and controllable lab systems or plant systems.