Chelsea Wood is the new Michigan Fellow and assistant professor in the University of Michigan Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is interested in the ecology of parasites and pathogens in a changing world, specifically, in a world subject to biodiversity loss, climate change, species invasions, and other impacts.
After completing her Ph.D. at Stanford, she began a one-year postdoc in Dr. Piet Johnson's lab at the University of Colorado. “Together we launched an ecosystem-scale, manipulative experiment to investigate the impacts of biodiversity loss on disease transmission in California ponds. We're continuing this collaboration and plan to track the trajectories of disease prevalence in our experimental ponds over the course of several years.”
In addition to continuing her collaborative work with Johnson, she has two main research goals in the next few years. “First, I'm building on the work that I began as a graduate student – investigating how fishing drives change in communities of coral reef fish parasites. Second, I'll be launching a new project that will develop ecological solutions to human disease control problems. The parasite we're tackling is the world's second most prevalent parasite (after malaria) – schistosomiasis. We're currently working on aquatic predator reintroduction as an approach to controlling the snails that pass the schistosomiasis parasite to humans.
During the winter 2015 term, she will teach the Ecology of Human Parasites (EEB 401). Although largely eradicated from developed regions, parasitic diseases remain a major cause of death and disability in the developing world. Most of these “neglected tropical diseases” (NTDs) are worms with complex life cycles that connect them – and their human hosts – intimately with the environment. The course will focus on NTDs: their distribution, ecology, physiological effects on hosts, and means of control, elimination, and eradication. Emphasis will be on ecological processes that affect the transmission of these diseases to humans, and on helminths rather than protozoal, bacterial, or viral diseases. Lab sections will include demonstrations of live parasites in animal models, preserved specimens/slides, and visualization and analysis of epidemiological data.
Wood has several undergraduate students working in her lab: Cassie Coulter, Hannah Maier and Austin Rife. She is available to serve on graduate student committees.