We work on the evolution and ecology of parasite phenotypic plasticity and life-history strategies. Our research focuses on malaria (Plasmodium) parasites, which cause some of the most serious infectious diseases of humans, livestock, companion animals and wildlife.
There is a great deal of research into the genetics, cell and molecular biology, and immunology of these parasites – but conspicuously less from a whole-organism (evolutionary) perspective – and malaria parasites remain a step ahead of medical science. We employ an evolutionary approach to understand the sophisticated strategies that parasites have evolved to maximize their survival during infections and transmission to new hosts.
Research at the interface between biomedicine and evolutionary ecology offers huge advances to both fields. This is central to successful interdisciplinary research and the motivation for our work.
By using malaria parasites to test the predictions and assumptions underlying evolutionary theories we can reveal the generality and explanatory power of an evolutionary ecology approach.
The framework used by evolutionary biologists to understand variation in life history traits and behaviours has been developed primarily for multi-cellular organisms like insects, birds and mammals. Therefore it is important to test whether these evolutionary principles are general enough to also explain the traits and behaviours of novel taxa, like parasites.
Explaining how natural selection has solved the complex problems faced by parasites and pathogens as they progress through their lives is important for medical science.
There is increasing interest in using an evolutionary framework to evaluate the likely short- and long-term success of medical inventions. Yet the success of ‘evolutionary medicine’ hinges on a significantly better understanding of even the basic evolutionary ecology of disease.
Please follow the links above to find out more about our specific research projects, who we are, what we do, where to find us, and how to join us.
Our research is generously funded by several organisations