Understanding the response of disease vectors to land-use change

This project is available from the academic year 2021/22 onwards.

Theme: Biodiversity, Ecology & Conservation

Primary Supervisor:

Kate Jones

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

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Secondary Supervisor:

Tim Newbold

Genetics, Evolution and Environment, UCL

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Project Description:

The natural world is changing rapidly: It is expected that by 2100, mean temperatures will rise by 4 degrees, 450 million hectares of forest will be lost and the human population will reach 11.2 billion. It is estimated that nearly half the world’s human population is infected with least one pathogen carried by invertebrate vector species, causing an immense daily burden and re-enforcing cycles of poverty. Climate and land-use change will have a major impact on disease-carrying species over the coming decades. However, our understanding of how biodiversity and in particular vector species respond to global change is limited. This project aims to understand and predict the response of vector species to global change drivers. Following on from the methods used in the Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems (PREDICTS) project, this PhD will for the first time, gather empirical evidence to uncover global patterns of vector and non-vector invertebrate community responses to land-use change and other global change drivers. The project would involve using machine learning analytics to gather data from literature and other primary data sources to generate spatial and temporal models of how vector abundances and distributions respond to current and future environmental variables.

Policy Impact of Research:

Diseases transmitted by arthropod vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks and midges are major contributors to the global burden of infectious disease. Understanding the interplay between environmental and socioeconomic factors at different spatial scales within a changing climate is essential for the successful management of disease risk in the future.

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