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UGA to host international conference on ecology, evolution of infectious diseases

May. 17, 2015



Writer: Beth Gavrilles, bethgav@uga.edu

Contact: Sonia Altizer, saltizer@uga.edu, Andrew Park, awpark@uga.edu


More than 350 scientists from around the world will gather in Athens from May 26-29 when the University of Georgia hosts the 13th annual Conference on the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases.

The final conference session, which focuses on Ebola virus dynamics and control, is open to the public. It will take place May 29 from 9:15-11 a.m. in the UGA Chapel. Attendance is free, but space is limited.

“It’s a real honor for us to host the EEID conference,” said John Gittleman, dean of the Odum School of Ecology and UGA Foundation Professor in Ecology. “UGA is a world leader in disease ecology, and the opportunity to showcase our researchers and to compare the latest findings with other scientists is great for the field and our institution.”

The conference, to be held at the Classic Center in downtown Athens, brings together experts from more than 100 institutions to share research findings and discuss issues related to the spread and evolution of infectious diseases. Participants will explore both small- and large-scale mechanisms that underlie infectious disease spread and emergence and pathogen impacts on humans, agriculture and natural ecosystems.

“Research on the ecology of infectious diseases has never been as relevant as it is today, in part because human changes to the environment are affecting the ecology of pathogens like never before,” said conference co-chair Sonia Altizer, associate dean and UGA Athletic Association Professor of Ecology in the Odum School of Ecology. “Most people think of diseases as problems for medicine to solve, but there’s growing awareness that an ecological understanding of pathogens can inform strategies to predict, control and prevent infectious diseases.”

This year’s EEID conference will highlight the connections between infectious disease ecology and other fields.

Conference co-chair Andrew Park, an associate professor in the Odum School and the College of Veterinary Medicine’s infectious diseases department, said the theme was particularly apt for UGA, with more than 100 faculty members engaged in the study of infectious diseases across campus.

“The strength of the infectious disease faculty here is unprecedented, and part of that is the linking across schools and departments,” he said. “Traditional disciplinary boundaries are far less apparent at UGA.”

Conference session themes include the dynamics of neglected tropical diseases, the interface between infectious diseases and the social sciences, within-host processes and evolution and the macroecology of infectious diseases.

In addition to conference talks and poster presentations, the 2015 EEID meeting will feature a lunch session on careers in disease ecology, designed to give students and postdoctoral scholars the opportunity to meet and ask questions of researchers and professionals in areas beyond academia, such as science communication and government agencies.

The EEID conference is sponsored by a number of units at UGA, including the Office of the Vice President for Research, the College of Public Health, the Odum School of Ecology, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute, the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, the Faculty of Infectious Diseases, One Health at UGA and the President’s Venture Fund through the generous gifts of the University of Georgia Partners, as well as Emory University, Georgia Tech and the National Science Foundation.

In addition to Altizer and Park, the conference steering committee includes UGA faculty members John Drake, Vanessa Ezenwa and Richard Hall in the Odum School; Courtney Murdock and Nicole Gottdenker in the College of Veterinary Medicine; Andreas Handel in the College of Public Health; Dan Colley in the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases; Emory University faculty members Jaap de Roode in the biology department and Uriel Kitron in the environmental studies department; and Joshua Weitz in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech. Odum School doctoral student Alexa Fritzsche McKay provided assistance to the organizers.

For more information about the conference, including the complete list of speakers, see http://eeidconference.org/2015/.

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