Research Projects

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.

Livestock movement and disease epidemiology

The goal of this project is to understand the epidemiology of infectious diseases in the ecological context of networks of host movements. Specifically, the goal is to understand transmission and maintenance of Foot and Mouth Disease Viruses (FMDV) in networks of livestock movements in the Far North Region of Cameroon. Because FMD is endemic and vaccinations are not used, the region provides an unprecedented opportunity to examine how different networks of livestock movements affect disease epidemiology. Read more

Pastoral production systems in anthropogenic floodplains

The goal of this project is to understand why pastoral production is so low in anthropogenic floodplains in sub-Saharan Africa. Pastoral production systems, in which animals are taken to natural forage, are vital in sub-Saharan Africa as they provide most of the animal protein for populations in rural as well as urban areas. However, in recent decades there has been a decrease in high quality grazing areas in natural floodplains due to the construction of dams in Africa’s rivers resulting in reduced livestock production. Although the dams create anthropogenic floodplains, pastoralists have noted that cattle have a lower reproduction rate, lower milk production, and higher calf mortality than in natural floodplains. Read more

Community approach to preventing disease in livestock and nondomestic ruminants

The goal of this project is to understand the ecology and epidemiology of disease at the interface of livestock, wildlife and non-native captive animals.  Disease in livestock can cause serious economic and health consequences for the local community. Native wildlife in the area can also be affected by disease and affect the community because they are pests, tourist attractions, and a food and recreation source.  In addition, non-native (zoo) animals provide education and tourism to local communities and their conservation is important on a more global scale.  All of these animals are affected and affect the animals around them, but they may react differently to the same diseases.  Understanding of disease risk and prevention at the interface of different animal populations is, thus, important to local communities. Read more

Amyloidosis in cheetahs

The goal of this project is to explore competing hypotheses about what causes amyloidosis, a fatal disease of cheetahs.  Amyloidosis is a chronic, often fatal protein misfolding disease described in mammals. The disease is caused by the deposition and aggregation of the protein, amyloid A.  Other well-known protein misfolding diseases include Alzheimer’s disease, chronic wasting disease (CWD), scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy(BSE).  In many animals with amyloidosis, the protein deposits accumulate in visceral organs such as the liver and kidney, resulting in organ failure and death.  Read more