Kathleen Alexander, Associate Professor
B.S., University of California, Davis (1982)
D.V.M., University of California, Davis (1994)
Ph.D., University of California, Davis (1995)
Office: 2103 ILSB
Phone: (540) 231-5059
Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation
310 West Campus Drive
Virginia Tech,Cheatham Hall, Room 106 (MC 0321)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
My research program 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. My program embraces 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. My approach integrates critical crosscutting elements that can influence infectious disease dynamics such as culture and behavior, gender dimensions, and climate change.
- Disease Ecology and Ecosystem Health (3 credit hours - FIW 3414) –Undergraduate level
Catalogue Description: Principles of disease ecology with practical application of concepts using both human and wildlife disease examples. Importance of emerging infectious disease in conservation planning, public health, and wildlife management.
- Advanced Topics in Disease Ecology (3 credit hours - FIW 5984)- Graduate level
Catalogue Description: Advanced topics in disease ecology with practical application of concepts in both tropical and temperate regions. Concepts embedded in the framework of ecosystem health and the human-wildlife health continuum. Importance of emerging infectious disease to human health, ecosystems dynamics, and wildlife management will be highlighted.
- Fundamentals of Immunity and Infectious Disease (8 credits - TBMH 5054, co-instructor) –Graduate level
Comprehensive survey of human immunity, infectious agents and disease across scales: genetic, molecular, cellular, tissue, organism, society. Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infectious and immune diseases. Social and economic aspects of infection disease and immunity.
Current Research Projects:
Synthetic Information Systems for Better Informing Public Health Policymakers
Our hypothesis is that synthetic information systems built by integrating relevant mathematical models can provide timely, comprehensive situational awareness and course-of-action analysis that policymakers can and will use to inform their response to infectious disease outbreaks. By synthetic information systems we mean software tools that synthesize diverse, seemingly incommensurate data, models, and causal hypotheses into plausible and justifiable pictures of a specific population and locality that support analysis of demographically and/or geographically targeted interventions. By comprehensive, we mean the tools include constraints and consequences due to behavior, sociology, logistics, and economics as well as health sciences; by provide and inform, we mean that, rather than define studies and publish prescriptive policy guidance ourselves, we will create tools that allow analysts and other end users to explore policy and implementation options themselves. We will evaluate this hypothesis by tailoring to epidemiology our synthetic information technologies developed in a variety of decision-informatic contexts.
Comprehensive National Incident Management System (CNIMS) - Task 1
The project will continue enhancements to and receive support from the Comprehensive National Incident Management System (CNIMS). The CNIMS is intended to provide a decision-support capability that's adaptable to a broad range of possible national (very large) scale crisis events using primary, secondary, and tertiary effects to determine recommendations for courses of action as for example Ebola crises in West Africa.
Can group living and the influence of Allee Effects explain infectious disease vulnerability in social species? Emergence of M. mungi in the cooperative breeding banded mongoose.
The project is directed at investigating and characterizing interactions between infectious disease and Allee Effects in group-living banded mongoose (Mungos mungo) in Botswana infected with the novel, emerging tuberculosis (TB) pathogen, Mycobacterium mungi. This empirical study system will be combined with dynamical models to advance theory and computational approaches that can be applied to social wildlife species that are involved in infectious disease transmission. Understanding how group size and AEs drive these interactions will be critical not only to the survival of this species but also to our understanding of the factors influencing transmission of such diseases across other host species, including to humans, and control implications. Knowledge and tool generation will support improved predictive capacity and management of zoonotic diseases that threaten human and animal health and involve group-living wildlife hosts.
Epidemiology of Mycobacterium mungi
The goal of this study is to answer three questions regarding the epidemiology of a newly identified species of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, M. mungi. The project seeks to define the mechanism by which this pathogen infects the banded mongoose host, whether it can be transmitted through a non-respiratory pathway, and if there is an environmental transmission pathway. The study will take place in the Chobe district of Botswana, where the researchers have prior knowledge of many banded mongoose troops.
Bringing New Light to an Old Disease
In Botswana and globally, diarrhea remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality with the majority of deaths occurring in children under 5 years. Our assessment of diarrhea over 29 year period identifies the occurrence of biannual outbreaks that correlate significantly with meteorological variables. Integrating environmental data collected from a cohort of study households and diarrheal case reports from the village, the project will develop a refined understanding of the drivers of diarrheal disease and potential options for mitigating public health interventions.
Conserving and maintaining forestry resources and services in Northern Botswana: sustaining community livelihoods through improved management and early warning framework in Chobe district
The study is conducting a systematic assessment of forest resources in northern Botswana, identifying critical ecosystem services and threats Through participatory approaches, this program will engage communities in forest resource management; identifying opportunities for communities to sustainably utilize the resource, contributing to short- and long-term poverty alleviation, food security, and improved gender-specific rural livelihoods. Program approaches and outcomes will be broadly applicable to other water scarce regions where dependence on forest resources and ecosystem services is identified and poverty increases community vulnerability to resource degradation.
The coupled dynamics of human-dryland river systems: linkages and feedbacks between human and environmental drivers of water quality and human health
This project is focused on investigating the linkages between human health and the environment in Northern Botswana expliciaty engaging environmental change and wildlife community dynamics as they occur around the only water source in the region – the Chobe river. The project integrates drivers of infectious disease from human behavior to water quality dynamics.
Assessing the impacts of habitat fragmentation on primate conservation, agriculture, and food security in Tanzania
The goals of this project are to investigate the impacts of forest habitat fragmentation and change on a) maize raiding, b) farmers’ knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of raiding, and c) potential microorganism transmission between humans and non-human primates (Sanje mangabey [Cercocebus sanjei] and African yellow baboon [Papio cynocephalus]) across select regions of Tanzania.
Select Recent Publications:
- Laver, P. Powell, R.A., and K.A. Alexander. 2015. Screening GPS telemetry data for locations having unacceptable error. Ecological Informatics, 27:11-20.
- Alexander, K.A., Sanderson, C.E.*, Marathe, M., Lewis, B.L., Rivers, C.M., Shaman, J., Drake, J.M., Lofgren, E., Dato, V.M., Eisenberg, M.C., and S. Eubank. 2015. What factors might have led to the emergence of Ebola in West Africa? Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases, Accepted for publication.
- Jobbins., S.E.* and K.A. Alexander. 2015. Evidence of Leptospira among a diversity of African wildlife species - Beyond the usual suspects. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. doi: 10.1093/trstmh/trv007.
- Lofgren E., Halloran M.E., Rivers C.M.+, Drake J.M., Porco T.C., Lewis B., Yang W., Vespignani A., Shaman J., Eisenberg J.N.S., Eisenberg M.C., Marathe M., Scarpino S.V., Alexander K.A., Meza R., Ferrari M.J., Hyman J.H., Meyers L.A., S. Eubank. 2014. Mathematical models: A key tool for outbreak response. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, doi:10.1073/pnas.1421551111
- Rivers, C.+, Alexander, K.A., Bellan, S., Del Valle, S., Drake, J.M. Eisenberg, J.N.S., Eubank, S., Ferrari, M., Halloran, M.E., Galvani, A., Lewis, B.L., Lewnard, J., Lofgren, E., Macal, C., Marathe, M., Ndeffo Mbah, M.L., Ancel Meyers, L., Meza, R., Park, A., Porco,T., Scarpino, S.M., Shaman, J., Vespignani, A., and W. Yang. 2014. Models overestimate Ebola cases: More than forecasts. Nature 515 (7528), 492.
- Halloran M. E., Vespignani, A., Bharti, N., Feldstein, L.R., Alexander, K.A., Ferrari, M., Shaman, J., Drake, J.M., Porco, T., Eisenberg, J.N.S., Del Valle, S.Y., Lofgren, E., Scarpino, S.V., Eisenberg, M.C., Gao, D., Hyman, J.M., Eubank, S., and I.M. Longini Jr. 2014. Ebola – Mobility Data. Science: 346 (6208), 433. [DOI:10.1126/science.346.6208.433-a]
- Blackburn, JK. Diamond, U., Kracalik, IT, Widmer, J., Brown, W., Morrissey, B.D., Alexander, K.A, Curtis, A.J., Ali, A., and J.G. Morris. 2014. Household-level spatiotemporal patterns of incidence of cholera, Haiti, 2011. Emerg Infect Dis. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2009.131882
- Alexander K.A. and C.E. Sanderson*. 2014. Conserving Carnivores: More than Numbers, Science Mar 14:343(6176):1199.
- Blackburn, J.K., Asher, V., Stokke, S., Hunter, D.L., andK.A. Alexander. 2014. Dances with anthrax: wolves, Canis lupus, kill anthrax bacteremic bison in southwestern Montana, Journal of Wildlife Research, Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 393-396.
- Fairbanks, B.M.*, Hawley, D.M., and K.A. Alexander. 2014. No evidence for avoidance of visibly diseased conspecifics in the highly social banded mongoose (Mungos mungo). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 1-11.
Last updated April, 2015