Infectious diseases play a key role in ecosystems: regulating wildlife populations, mediating inter-specific competition, causing dramatic population declines, even driving local extinctions of wildlife. During the last two decades, ecologists have led the growth of a new field of disease ecology, developing theoretical and practical research that understands these interactions. However, integration of disease ecology into veterinary and human health sciences has been slow, partly due to the slow response of health science curricula to incorporate these advances. This lack of integration, and the significance of pathogens shared among animals and humans (zoonoes) has led to repeated calls for increased collaboration among ecologists, veterinarians and public health researchers.
The objective of this award is to develop "EcoHealthNet," a new "Ecohealth Alliance" linking Centers of Excellence in NGOs, Universities, and Research Societies and fusing the fields of Conservation Medicine, Medical Geography, and the "One Medicine" or "One Health" concept. EcoHealthNet will fill a critical role in bringing together ecologists, environmental biologists and the disciplines more traditionally involved in infectious diseases - veterinary medical, human medical and public health researchers. It will provide mentored training opportunities for more than 100 graduate students, openly recruited from the medical (human and veterinary), ecological, epidemiological, microbiological, economic, and environmental science fields. The training will include workshops in epidemiology, mathematical modeling of infectious disease, and field epidemiology; and international applied field research in ongoing, well-supported programs such as the ecology of Nipah virus, Avian Influenza, rodent pathogen diversity in urban America; West Nile Virus and SARS ecology.
Over the five years of this project, over 100 students from diverse backgrounds will be trained in tackling the global problem of emerging diseases which threaten wildlife conservation, public health and development. Research findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed publications, media interviews, conference presentations, and congressional briefings, in close collaboration with national and intergovernmental agencies that cover conservation, development, trade issues, and public health. Network members will help make data publicly available via online databases, via the student section of the International EcoHealth Association, the Wildlife Trust Alliance and the EcoHealth Alliance.