Research opportunities for undergraduates

The goal of the Disease Ecology and Computer Modeling Laboratory (DECML) is to use both field research and computer simulations along with rigorous statistical analysis and validation to improve understanding of the mechanisms driving the transmission and persistence of diseases in populations of animals and humans. We are engaged in a number of different research projects in which we use this integrated approach.

We have numerous opportunities for undergraduate researchers interested in studying different dimensions of the ecology of infectious diseases in the Far North of Cameroon where we conduct most of our research and in southeastern Ohio.
In the past we have worked with undergraduate students from anthropology, geography, mathematics, and ecology and evolutionary biology. They have conducted ethnographic research in Cameroon, analyzed spatial data using ArcGIS, or used computer and mathematical models to examine the dynamics of infectious diseases.
Students have been supported by research grants and fellowships from the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences, ASC Undergraduate Experiences Grant, Undergraduate Student International Travel Grant, ASC International Research Grant award, ASC Research Scholarship award, ASC Honors Program, and the NSF REU programs of the Cultural Anthropology and Ecology of Infectious Diseases programs.
Students have presented their research at the Denman Undergraduate Research Forum and their research has resulted in a co-authored publication in the Journal of Modern African Studies (2011) and Human Ecology (2010, 2012).
Undergraduate (and graduate) students at OSU interested in conducting independent research should email us or come by our office hours. 
Rebecca Garabed
Department of Preventive Medicine
College of Veterinary Medicine
A100G Sisson Hall, 1920 Coffey Road
Columbus, OH 43210
Phone: 614-247-1842
Fax: 614-292-4142
Mark Moritz
Department of Anthropology
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
4058 Smith Laboratory, 174 W 18th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
Phone: 614-247-7426
Fax: 614-292-4155

Potential research projects

1. Modeling grazing pressure in the rainy season. Previously, we conducted a study of daily herd movements and grazing strategies in a mobile pastoral system in the Logone floodplain, Cameroon. We integrated GPS/GIS technology, video recordings of animal behavior, and ethnographic methods to develop a more accurate measurement of grazing pressure that takes into account both livestock densities and grazing behavior (Moritz et al. 2010). However, the ecosystem in the rainy season grazing lands is very different from that in the Logone Floodplain and we would like to replicate our study in the rainy season.

2. Modeling daily human movements in a community of mobile pastoralists. We are currently studying how daily and seasonal movements of livestock may contribute to the transmission and maintenance of foot and mouth disease in the Far North Region of Cameroon, but we have not yet studied how daily movements of humans (e.g., travel to markets, visits to other pastoralists) may contribute to the transmission of FMD. We would like to document the movements of all people in multiple communities for a short period of time.

3. Survey of abortion-causing diseases in southeastern Ohio.  Several graduate students in our lab are working to find out the prevalence and risk factors for abortion-causing diseases in livestock and wildlife in southeastern Ohio.  To do this they collect samples from cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, coyotes, and white-tailed deer and survey people in the area to get information about contact among animals and perceptions of disease.  We can often use a hand in the data collection (activities might include picking up coyote feces along trails, collecting organs from road-killed deer, taking blood from livestock, or talking with farmers) and there are opportunities for students to develop their own projects to look at other diseases or events in the same populations. 

4. Business management case study.  Our projects in Cameroon are all facilitated by a non-governmental organization based in the Far North of Cameroon.  This business has encountered some management and funding issues, that are very different from those encountered by a business in a developed country and in American culture.  We would like to help this organization improve its business management and feel there is opportunity for a student or group of students and faculty to study the unique challenges faced by this sort of business.   

5. Medical waste management study. The city of Maroua, where our Cameroonian collaborators are based, has a new waste management system for household waste (see story in Anthropology News). But what we do not know yet is how medical waste is disposed of. For example, what happens to the tubes, syringes, and needles that we use in our research project? What is the final destination and what are the potential health risks along the way?