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Plenary Lectures and Presentations

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

10:30 to 12:00, Ballroom A - PRCC

Dr. Carla E. Cáceres

University of Illinois, Department of Animal Biology, Urbana, IL

Presentation: The Lake as a Microcosm for the Study of Disease

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More than 120 years ago, Stephen A. Forbes recognized the utility of lakes for studying the complexity of interactions that are the hallmark of modern community ecology. Although parasites have not always been a central focus of community ecologists, recent research has revealed the roles they play in community dynamics. It has also become clear that the spread of disease through a host population often depends on other members of the food web besides the host and parasite species in question. Furthermore, some physical aspects of the environment seem to enhance the spread of disease whereas others inhibit it. We have been using freshwater zooplankton as a case study to understand the connection between habitat, community structure and disease spread. We see a pronounced relationship between the basin shapes of lakes and fungal (Metschnikowia bicuspidata) disease in the zooplankton grazer Daphnia dentifera. Multiple mechanisms can explain why Daphnia in some lakes are sicker, but we can eliminate some hypotheses and find support for others involving food-web players. Furthermore, we identify physical mechanisms that enhance the transport of fungal spores and increase the likelihood of epidemics in lakes with particular basin shapes. These results, coupled with examples from other systems demonstrate that habitat structure, through its effects on food-web composition and physical processes, can shape wildlife disease.

Biographical Information: Dr. Carla E. Cáceres is the director of the Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology Program at the University of Illinois Urbana. She also is an associate professor in the Department of Animal Biology. She received her BS in biology from the University of Michigan and earned her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University. Carla received ASLO’s R. L. Lindeman Award for the outstanding paper written by a young aquatic scientist in 1999. Other honors and recognitions include the National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences (2009-2010), Campus award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2009), Lynn M. Martin Award for Distinguished Women Teachers (2009), Helen Corley Petit Scholar (2006-2007), Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) (2003), and the James A. Hagan Teaching Fellow, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois (2002-2003).