Sonia Altizer

Portrait of Sonia Altizer with butterfly in handLamar Dodd Creative Research Award 2018

Sonia Altizer, Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Ecology, studies the interactions between animal behavior and the spread and evolution of infectious diseases in wildlife populations. She has challenged longstanding assumptions that migrating animals suffer from greater parasitism and are sources for the spread of infectious agents. Instead, her research shows that for some animal species, including monarch butterflies, migrations reduce infection prevalence and allow migrants to escape from harmful parasites. Her teams deploy diverse approaches including controlled experiments, field sampling, analysis of citizen science data sets and mechanistic mathematical models. She has also published studies on social organization and the spread of infectious disease, pathogen responses to climate and seasonality, how human feeding of wildlife alters pathogen transmission and the role of pathogens in wildlife conservation. Most recently, her research asks whether human-caused shifts in some species’ migratory to resident behavior can increase pathogen transmission and diminish health.