Disease Ecology

Disease ecologists study the interactions between pathogens (e.g. viruses, bacteria, fungi) or parasites (e.g. protozoa, helminthes) and their human or non-human hosts. Outbreaks of infectious diseases are frequently caused by changes to the ecology of the host, the pathogen, or the environment. Therefore, understanding the incidence, prevalence, or timing of diseases requires understanding the ecology of the interaction.

Parasitic organisms are an important component of ecosystems, and they can influence the abundance and dynamics of wild populations, drive evolutionary dynamics, and in some cases lead to host extinction. The majority of diseases of humans are zoonotic, meaning that they are transmitted between species, from animals to humans, and their prevalence is strongly affected by the interaction between humans and the natural world.

Disease ecology is highly interdisciplinary, and researchers in this field frequently draw on tools from genetics, molecular biology, genomics, immunology, epidemiology, and spatial modeling. Disease ecologists at UCSB use both modeling and empirical approaches, and investigate pathogens and parasites in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial systems.



Dr. Briggs studies disease ecology, population ecology, and systems biology, combining theoretical and empirical approaches, using models and laboratory and field experiments.


Parasite population and community ecology; marine ecology; crustacean biology.

Behavioral ecology, social organization, community ecology, eco-evolutionary dynamics.


The Young lab seeks to understand how and when anthropogenic disturbances are likely to drive cascading changes in whole community structure and function, including implications for human health.