People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Investigating the ecological drivers of coral and human diseases across the tropics


Thursday July 4, 12:00 to 13:00 hrs (AEST)

Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building) Room 106 (upstairs), JCU, Townsville
Jamie Caldwell
Jamie Caldwell

Abstract: Disease transmission is a natural process that helps shape the ecology and evolution of all organisms on Earth, yet, the burden and distribution of disease outbreaks is changing at an alarming rate with ongoing climate change. In order to prevent or mitigate disease outbreaks, we first need to identify the conditions that allow diseases to emerge and spread at a given time and location. My research combines mathematical modeling with data from field and laboratory experiments to test hypotheses about disease spread at different spatial scales and across ecological systems to predict disease outbreaks in the future. In this talk, I will discuss my research on coral diseases and mosquito-borne diseases. Although seemingly very different, both disease systems are strongly influenced by climate, habitually under-detected, and currently have no widely available treatment. The first part of my talk will focus on an effort to develop forecasts for coral disease outbreaks across the tropical Pacific Ocean using satellite-derived and in situ data on biological, environmental, and anthropogenic drivers of disease. In this work, my colleagues and I have found that different combinations of reef structure, water motion, land-based development, and temperature exposure differentially drive disease transmission across host species and disease types. I will further discuss how we are adapting these mathematical models into forecasts of coral disease outbreak risk that will be integrated into the NOAA Coral Reef Watch product suite. Next, I will give a brief overview of my research developing predictive models of dengue and chikungunya transmission in Ecuador and Kenya. In this project, we found that temperature, rainfall, and humidity were strongly related to mosquito abundances and human disease cases through time, but interestingly, human behavior decoupled the expected relationship between rainfall and transmission. Finally, I will discuss important commonalities between coral and mosquito-borne disease systems that may more generally govern infectious disease dynamics.

Bio: Jamie Caldwell is broadly interested in global change and the ecology of infectious diseases. Her research investigates how diseases spread between individuals and among populations, with an emphasis on understanding environmental conditions that can be used to forecast disease outbreaks. She has studied disease transmission in a variety of systems from corals and seastars to human diseases such as dengue and Zika. Jamie received her B.Sc. from Penn State University and Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii in the USA. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and a visiting scholar at the CoE at JCU.


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