January 27, 2017: ESPM Seminar- Emerging Diseases at the Human-Wildlife Interface in Africa: What are we missing?

by / Tuesday, 24 January 2017 / Published in events

ESPM Wildlife Lunch, Friday 27, Jan, 12-1 pm, Mulford 103

Emerging Disease at the Human-Wildlife Interface in Africa: What Are We Missing?

Kathleen A. Alexander, Professor– Virginia Tech, College of Natural Resources

Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation, Blacksburg, VA

With the emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Ebola virus to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), we have seen how vulnerable we are, both economically and socially, to the impacts of infectious disease. What drives the emergence of infectious disease in coupled human-wildlife systems? What are we missing that continues to undermine our ability to predict the next disease outbreak? Using various host-pathogen systems from our long-term study site in Northern Botswana and Namibia, I take an ecological approach and explore the dynamics of disease emergence and spread, asking what can we learn from our discoveries in these systems?

What are the next big questions we need to ask?


Dr. Alexander’s research is directed at exploring and understanding the factors that influence the emergence and persistence of emerging and re-emerging diseases at the human- wildlife-environmental interface. She takes a systems biology approach to ecosystem health integrated with public health, beginning within host – pathogen dynamics and extending to the livelihoods of communities living with wildlife, including the impact on ecosystem function and local communities themselves. Dr. Alexander integrates critical crosscutting elements into her research that influence infectious disease dynamics such as culture and behavior, gender dimensions, and climate change. Dr. Alexander has been conducting research in East and Southern Africa for over twenty years. She has worked for the Government of Botswana as both the Chief of the Wildlife Veterinary Unit in the Department of Wildlife and National Parks and later, as the Ecological Advisor to the Office of the President of Botswana and the Attorney Generals Chambers. She has spent most of her professional life working with local communities integrating scientific approaches with traditional understanding in order to identify interventions for improved rural livelihoods. She is a member of both the World Conservation Union’s Wildlife Health Specialist Group as well as the Commission for Ecosystem Management. She moved to Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech in 2007 where she continues to conduct research in her long-term Botswana study site on the dynamics of emerging infectious disease at the human – animal – environmental interface. Kathleen received both her PhD and veterinary degree from University of California, Davis. For more information on her research, please visit the following websites:

NSF CNH supported Water Quality and Health Project:

NSF EEID funded Disease ecology study of banded mongoose and an emerging TB pathogen:

Local project NGO in Botswana – CARACAL:,

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