University Department and/or Lab
Biology Department, Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics
My research projects focus on the ecology and evolution of the Paramyxoviridae, which are a family of viruses that includes measles, mumps, canine distemper virus, and phocine distemper virus.
Description of Research
Primarily, my research focuses on understanding phocine distemper virus (PDV), which is a measles-like virus that affects harbor seal populations in the North Sea. To date, two large scale PDV epidemics which have decimated the harbor seal populations in the North Sea: in both 1988 and 2002, between 20,000 to 30,000 harbor seals died from PDV. I have developed and analyzed a series of mathematical models describing and simulating the spread of phocine distemper virus (PDV) throughout the entire North Sea as well as models, which investigated the effects of age-structure on the 2002 PDV outbreak in the Dutch Wadden Sea.
I am also interested in the molecular evolution of the Paramyxoviridae. In particular, I have used genetic sequences to infer past population demography of the affected host population.
Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience
Integrating research with my GK-12 experience is a high priority, and occurs as an important part of the three main facets of my GK-12 experience: classroom activities with K-12 students, teacher professional development, and outreach seminars.
Both independent thinking though inquiry and science content are critical components of scientific research. Through a hands-on, inquiry based lesson encompassing the scientific method and the nature of science, eighth grade students at Susquehanna Township Middle School begin to grapple with independent problem-solving skills and the biology of disease transmission though an activity which simulates a disease outbreak in their classroom. Not only do students trace the outbreak, but they must also find its source and develop methods to contain it, much like a practicing biologist!
Similar “outbreak” activities to convey ideas about disease transmission and prevention were developed as one aspect of our GK-12 program’s teacher professional development. Both pre-service teachers and practicing teachers have opportunities to witness and partake in these lessons. This occurs though guest lectures in undergraduate elementary education classes at The Pennsylvania State University and at SUNY Oneonta, as well as during GREATT’s annual summer teacher workshop for practicing educators.
Lastly, I integrate my research into outreach seminars and presentations given at the Pennsylvania Science Teachers Association’s (PSTA) annual meetings and at undergraduate institutions. These seminars encompass both research in the ecology of infectious diseases and science pedagogy. In general, they present a forum for the exchange of my research and lesson ideas.
Overall, my GK-12 experience provides a unique opportunity for the integration of K-12 science pedagogy and university-level research though activities with K-12 students, teachers, and pre-service teachers at the undergraduate level.
Profile date: September 2007