Sarah Reece (Institute of Evolutionary Biology) awarded £740k by Natural Environment Research Council

Many congratulations to Sarah Reece in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, on her grant from Natural Environment Research Council. 

Sarah has recently been awarded £740k to study the evolution and ecology of phenotypic plasticity in parasite life history strategies.

Sarah says:

Explaining variation in the virulence and infectiousness of parasites is a major aim in evolutionary biology and predicting how parasites adapt to their environment is becoming increasingly important.  For example, changes in parasite ecology (e.g. composition of host-parasite-vector communities, and habitats) are implicated in the emergence of new infectious diseases of wildlife, crops, livestock, and humans.

The environments experienced by parasites inside hosts and vectors are highly changeable.  For example, resources become scarce as hosts get sick, immune responses directed at parasites develop, and parasites often have to compete with other strains and species sharing their host.   Sarah’s recent research has shown that parasites adjust their traits in response to the conditions they experience in the host.  Using the malaria parasite Plasmodium, she will investigate why parasites do this by testing theory that predicts they adjust their traits in ways that maximise fitness.

 

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