Chelsea Wood

  • Assistant Professor, SAFS

Research areas

My research program explores the ecology of parasites and pathogens in a changing world. I address several questions with practical applications to marine and freshwater conservation, as well as essential value for ecological theory. First, does loss of biodiversity generally increase or decrease parasite transmission? In other words, do human impacts on biodiversity increase the prevalence of parasites by eroding natural “checks and balances” on transmission or decrease prevalence when they remove the free-living biodiversity on which parasites depend? Second, if – as recent data suggest – biodiversity loss has variable effects on transmission across parasites, what factors predict disease outcomes? Might transmission strategy of the parasite, the magnitude or timing of biodiversity loss, or the scale of observation influence whether transmission increases, decreases, or remains unchanged in response to an environmental impact? Answers to these questions are urgently needed as global change accumulates and as the perceived threat of infectious disease grows.

I work primarily in marine ecosystems, where biodiversity change is driven in large part by fishing.  Much of my past work used fished and unfished islands as replicates to test for correlation between fishing and parasite assemblage composition and diversity.  I expanded my research program into freshwater ecosystems during my post-doc years, launching a project on schistosomiasis, a zoonotic disease caused by a trematode parasite.  I am now adding a temporal dimension to my research program, with work on the historical ecology of marine and freshwater parasitism.

Developing general ecological principles for predicting the shape and direction of biodiversity-parasitism relationships across parasites and ecosystems is a critical first step to finding win-win-win solutions for biodiversity conservation, public health, and economic development. This is a key goal of my research.


Courses

  • FISH 310:  Biology of Shellfishes

Expertise

  • Ecology of parasites and pathogens
  • Effects of environmental change on disease transmission
  • Marine and freshwater biology
  • Schistosomiasis and other zoonoses
  • Spatial ecology
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation biology

 

Selected publications

  • Wood CL, Baum J, Reddy SMW, Trebilco R, Sandin S, Zgliczynski B, Briggs A, and Micheli F. 2015. Productivity and fishing pressure drive variability in fish parasite assemblages of the Line Islands, equatorial Pacific. Ecology 98: 1383-98.

  • Wood CL, 2014. Environmental change and the ecology of infectious disease. Science 346: 1192.

  • Wood CL, Sandin S, Zgliczynski B, Guerra AS, and Micheli F. 2014. Fishing drives declines in fish parasite diversity and has variable effects on parasite abundance. Ecology 95: 1929-46.

  • Wood CL, and Lafferty KD. 2013. Biodiversity and disease: A synthesis of ecological perspectives on Lyme disease transmission. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28: 239-47.

  • Wood CL, Lafferty KD, and Micheli F. 2010. Fishing out marine parasites? Impacts of fishing on rates of parasitism in the ocean. Ecology Letters 13: 761-75.

  • Wood CL, Byers JE, Cottingham KL, Altman I, Donahue MJ, and Blakeslee AMH. 2007. Parasites alter community structure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104: 9335-39.