I didn’t go to all of the parasite ecology talks at ESA 2014, and I can’t even fit all the ones that I went to into one blog post. But for those of you who weren’t there – and for those who were but just want to revel in your memories of awesome ESA 2014 parasite ecology – here are some of my favorites. Also, just for fun (and because I may or may not have an addiction that I could totally give up at any time, I swear), I gave everyone a relative parasite cartoon score.
Monday was the ESA Early Career Fellows Symposium. Meg Duffy and Pieter Johnson both gave brilliant parasite ecology talks. Meg Duffy showed that parasite infection can reduce host feeding rates in Daphnia, which paradoxically ends up increasing host density via interactions with the algal resource (i.e., a hydra effect). She had some sweet Daphnia + fungus cartoons, so I give her an 8 on my cartoon scoring scale (second place!). Pieter Johnson showed that amphibian host diversity can increase parasite richness (“diversity begets diversity”) and decrease Ribeiroia infection risk (=dilution effect), and he emphasized that parasite richness and infection risk aren’t the same thing. (Speaking of Ribeiroia, have you guys seen this tshirt? You’re welcome.) I may have missed some cartoons while I was scribbling in my notebook, but I think he had some silhouettes of snails and vertebrates and some fluorescent cercariae cartoons: 4.
Christopher Johnson talked about competition between two mutualistic species (i.e., two butterfly species) for a shared resource (i.e., nectar from the host plant) – in other words, a symbiont competition model, where the resource is the host or services/resources from the host. And instead of R*s, there were M*s. And then there were phase diagrams and talk of symbiont species coexistence. Yeah. Amazing.
On Tuesday, I saw a talk by Eric Schauber, who used agent based modeling to consider how the “need to be social” affects among group pathogen transmission. Awwwesome. He had some cartoon vertebrates (goats?), so that’s a 2.
On Wednesday, Max Joseph gave a really cool talk about how a negative relationship between “disease risk” and host richness can emerge from a model that treats hosts as habitat patches, where symbionts have different niche requirements. Oh, and so can a positive relationship between host and parasite richness! I’d just been lamenting the loose way that people refer to “disease risk,” so I was really glad when he stressed the importance of quantifying what we mean by disease risk when talking about the dilution effect. Get ready, World. Big things are happening with dilution effect theory.
Angela Brennan asked: what is the right scale to look at the impacts of host density on disease transmission? That’s a tricky one…
Cat Searle gave a neat talk about invasive species, their competence as hosts, and their role in pathogen transmission, using a Daphnia model system. She had some cartoons of space aliens as her invasive species, so that’s a 6. Oh, and for all of the undergraduates reading this blog, she’s looking for grad students!
Continuing on the Daphnia vein, Alex Strauss looked at the outcomes of introducing diluting host species that both reduce parasite transmission to the focal host species and compete with the focal host species. And DING DING DING DING! For his cartoons of Daphnia, algae, fungi, and other tiny organisms (score = 10), Alex wins the Best Parasite Cartoons of ESA 2014 Award!!
Finally, on Thursday, I really liked Dan Preston’s talk about tadpole behavioral responses to predators and parasites. But I’m going to try to blog that one next week, so you’ll have to stay tuned!