Image Credit: Davian Ho, Maya Peters Kostman, and Philippa Steinberg for the Innovative Genomics Institute, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0, Image Cropped
There’s a certain poetry to the popularity of disease ecology. Once a quirky biological sub-field, the study of diseases in an ecological context had spread steadily in popularity over the last two decades. Then COVID hit, and much like the disease itself, disease ecology rocketed into the forefront of natural sciences.
This wasn’t just contained to university and hospital corridors. Before COVID, how often did you hear words like “transmission”, “virulence” and “pathogen”? While disease ecology is the crux of my professional life now, there’s little chance I would have been able to make a career of it twenty years ago.
To get some perspective, I decided to talk to people who have been there for the surge in relevance disease ecology has experienced in that time. I was recently in Kruger National Park, South Africa for the 4th International Congress on Parasites of Wildlife, and had the pleasure of sitting down with two prominent disease ecologists, Dr. Sandra Telfer and Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, in separate meetings to talk about how the field has changed over the course of their careers.