Global environmental and land-use changes, aging human populations, and the increasing prevalence of infectious diseases of animals, plants and people (e.g., Lyme disease, Zika virus, bird flu, citrus greening disease) highlight the need for training professionals in an interdisciplinary "One Health" approach that studies disease dynamics at the intersection of human, animal, plant, and environmental health. As much as 60% of the emerging infectious diseases in humans have originated in animals; for example, almost 300,000 people died of swine flu in 2009. One Health diseases are costly; over a 12-year period, the economic burden of six infectious disease outbreaks in the U.S. totaled over $80 billion. Disease susceptibility and transmission is strongly affected by social factors (e.g., outdoor employment, limited healthcare access). Addressing the complex connections among human, animal, plant, and environmental health under changing land use and climate patterns will advance the basic science while also generating innovative solutions to One Health problems. This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award to the University of Maine will address these environmental One Health issues, with transdisciplinary teams of scientists working together to train graduate students. The project anticipates training seventy-one (71) MS and PhD students, including twenty-one (21) funded trainees, from a variety of STEM fields including Economics, Biology and Forest Resources.
The NRT project will encourage interdisciplinary environmental One Health research by trainees in a diverse range of systems, from marine to terrestrial, rural to urban, and economic to cultural. Specific research topics include migratory bird pathogen transmission and evolution, drivers of disease spillover between game birds and domestic poultry, the ecology and evolution of vector-borne diseases, and climate and/or land-use practice impacts on the spread of disease vectors and drinking water quality. Through close interactions with internship partners outside of academia, the trainees will expand their boundaries to consider not just the underlying science, but also the management and policy challenges in developing solutions to One Health problems. Training in cross-disciplinary communication will enable trainees to engage with diverse scientific communities, stakeholders, citizen scientists, and the public. The traineeship is designed to increase the participation of women, first-generation students, veterans, students with disabilities and other traditionally underrepresented groups. The project will develop new graduate degree programs and concentration areas in One Health as well as curricular innovations to be shared with other institutions to help them develop similar interdisciplinary programs.
The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training. The program is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary or convergent research areas through comprehensive traineeship models that are innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.