My dissertation work developed at the intersection of disease ecology, ecosystem ecology, and conservation biology. My research focuses on the influence of abiotic and biotic factors on disease dynamics of the amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatids. Although the role of disease in the biodiversity crisis is traditionally understated, the emergence of infectious diseases is a pressing concern for amphibians and many other taxa of conservation concern.
Abiotic and biotic components of the environment may alter interactions between hosts and their enemies through direct and indirect pathways. For example, disease dynamics may change in the presence of predators and competitors of hosts or disease agents. Food webs provide a framework for identifying effects of non-hosts on disease dynamics. Traditionally, pathogens and parasites have been excluded from food web analyses because they are cryptic and their abundance and impacts are difficult to quantify. However, parasites comprise half of all biodiversity, and though they are diminishingly small compared to other consumers, the total biomass of parasites in an ecosystem can exceed that of top predators. Consideration of hosts and pathogens as functional members of the ecological communities in which they exist can lead to important insights for disease ecology. My dissertation research may contribute to control measures for the emerging infectious disease chytridiomycosis.
Personal website: http://juliabuck.weebly.com/index.html