I am an evolutionary ecologist with strong interests in the processes that drive heterogeneity in hosts, parasites, and diseases. My lab members and I aim to understand how natural selection has shaped strategies for both host defense and parasite transmission. We are especially interested in discovering why hosts are so heterogeneous in immune responsiveness. Our laboratory methods will be familiar to immunologists, but our questions as well as our quantitative methods are drawn from evolutionary ecology.
Of the myriad molecules that power the mammalian immune system, our favorites are cytokines and antibodies. Cytokines are intercellular signalling molecules that determine the type and magnitude of parasite-killing mechanisms enabled; antibodies are among the most potent and specific of those mechanisms. Thanks to excellent recent graduate alumnae, we study defense mechanisms of insect hosts, too. We assess effects of strong responses upon both host and parasite fitness, and the selection pressures that shape speed and specificity of responses.
Faculty Assistant: Sandy Cominski