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11-06-2015

Clarkson University Professor Tells How Parasites & Pathogens React to Climate Change

While many aspects of climate change are as large and obvious as polar ice caps, changes occurring among microscopic creatures are also of major importance.

Andrew DavidJust ask Clarkson University Assistant Professor of Biology Andrew David, one of the invited speakers last month at Hofstra University who discussed how some parasites and pathogens are responding to climate change.

The gathering brought together experts in medicine, ecology and epidemiology, notes David, who's the director of freshman biology at Clarkson. The event also tapped his interest and expertise in parasitic worms, mollusks, and invertebrates.

“It was interesting. All the invited talks were from people from different fields. The topics they spoke on included on how specific diseases like Malaria will be affected by climate change,” he says.

Information promoting the talks noted that climate change is altering the geographic range of many parasites and disease-causing organisms, bringing them into contact with new host species and human populations, stressing established ecosystems, and creating new public health challenges. David has seen that from his research in South Africa, where he completed his doctoral research.

“The International Union for Conservation of Nature recognizes marine invasions as one of the leading threats facing global biodiversity, " he says." As an example, shellfish and abalone are being infected by invasive worms introduced from the United States to South Africa. They bore into their shells so the shellfish and abalone must divert their energy to shell repair, which decreases growth and in extreme cases, kills the animal. The specific species I work on have invaded Argentina as well, creating massive biogenic reefs in the intertidal, causing beaches to be shut down."

Researchers are trying to predict the spread of the invasive worms so conservation managers will know where to effectively direct their defenses and expenses.

“I was invited to speak at another conference in January in Oregon. This will be geared towards evolutionary biologists, so the focus will be more scientific. There's still so much more to know and time may not be on our side,” he adds.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/adavid.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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