disturbing the land


Recent outbreaks of Ebola, SARS, and other zoonotic infectious diseases that transmit from animals to humans have made the relationship between human disease and environmental management an especially hot topic.

In East Africa, community ecologist Hillary Young’s fieldwork has examined the direct impacts of human disturbance on landscape and wildlife, as well as a variety of factors affecting infectious disease risk.

Young posits that rodent-borne pathogens are likely to demonstrate the links between conservation and human health. In three recently published papers, she takes separate approaches to addressing the question of what human disturbance is doing to human health.

“I ask this overarching question in a variety of ways,” says Young, an assistant professor in University of California, Santa Barbara’s department of ecology, evolution and marine biology.

“All three papers try to come at that question from different directions, and acknowledge that there is no single answer.

“We can disturb environments in myriad different ways, with diverse and cascading impacts across taxa—thus affecting disease risk in diverse and indirect ways,” she adds.

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