Collaborative Team

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Raina Plowright

Raina Plowright is Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Montana State University, Bozeman, USA. She received her veterinary degree from the University of Sydney, Australia, and then travelled to the USA as an Australian Fulbright and Centennial Scholar to do her Ph.D. in ecology and M.Sc. in epidemiology at the University of California, Davis, USA. She was a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow at the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University, USA. Her group at Montana State University studies pathogens that spill over from animals to people, the dynamics of zoonotic pathogens in wildlife populations, and pathogens that threaten wildlife conservation. 


Nita Bharti

Nita Bharti is an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University, a member of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, and a fellow of the Branco Weiss Society in Science. She has an interdisciplinary background in anthropology and biology and uses it to work at the interface of human behavior and infectious disease dynamics. Much of her research has focused on environmentally driven human movement and migration as both a propagator of disease transmission and a solution for improving access to health care. She draws on her experience of integrating research and application to define important questions, identify the proper research tools and data sets, and implement realistic solutions to complex problems. 

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Liam McGuire

Liam is an assistant professor at Texas Tech University. His research focusses on the ecology and physiology of bats in situations of energy limitation (e.g., migration, hibernation) and the strategies these animals use to cope with environmental variation, often in the context of conservation issues (e.g., white-nose syndrome, wind energy). Liam takes an integrative approach using techniques ranging from molecular biology and biochemistry, to whole animal physiology, behavioral and movement ecology. 


Olivier Restif

Olivier Restif is the Alborada Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Epidemiology at the Department of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Cambridge. A mathematical modeller by training, he holds a PhD in Ecology from the University of Paris. His research focuses on the dynamics of infectious diseases across scales, from cells to ecosystems. One of his main projects investigates the circulation of zoonotic viruses in African bats, in relation to their immunology and ecology, as part of a long-standing UK-Ghana collaboration. He is a passionate advocate of model-guided fieldwork, which seeks to create synergies between theoretical and empirical research in disease ecology.


Elizabeth Shanahan

Dr. Shanahan, an associate professor at Montana State University, has developed (with colleagues) the Narrative Policy Framework to measure the effect of narratives in policy decision making. Her research has centered on how interest groups strategically construct persuasive policy narratives and to what extent these narratives influence individual opinions. She has recently focused her work on hazards (flooding and now Hendra virus spillover) to understand how scientific information can be best situated in locally derived narratives to increase hazard preparedness.

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Alison Peel

Alison is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. She is a wildlife disease ecologist with a veterinary background and her primary interests lie in the role of landscape change and anthropogenic influence on the dynamics and drivers of infectious disease in wildlife. She investigated the population genetics and viral epidemiology in African fruit bats for her PhD (University of Cambridge, 2012) and her current research extends this to further explore the complexity of multi-host-multi-pathogen communities. She is interested in how Hendra virus exists within a diverse community of viruses in Australian flying-foxes, and how the various host species contribute unequally to transmission and spillover.

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Peggy Eby

Dr Peggy Eby is a wildlife ecologist with a longstanding interest in the flying-foxes of south east Australia. She uses empirical studies and long-term datasets to explore the behavioral responses of flying-foxes to variable food resources, focusing on migration, patterns of dispersion, and feeding ecology. Her current interests include the role of adaptive behaviors in responses to rapid environmental change; and the influences of behavioral modifications on human-bat conflict and disease risk. She works with policy makers and stakeholders to develop and promote practical conservation and management outcomes. Peggy runs a private consultancy and holds an adjunct position in the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales.


Wayne Bryden

Professor Wayne Bryden holds the Foundation Chair in Animal Science at the University of Queensland. He was Head of the School of Animal Studies at the same University from 2002 to 2007 and prior to that appointment was Pro-Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney. His research group is currently pursuing various aspects of nutritional physiology, toxicology and immunity. In 2003 Wayne was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal for his contributions to science and education, in 2005 he co-chaired the Gordon Research Conference on Mycotoxins and Phycotoxins, and heis a member of the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Food Safety.


Peter Hudson

Peter Hudson is the Willaman Professor of Biology and Director of The Huck Institutes of Life Sciences at Pennsylvania State University, USA. He investigates the dynamics of infections in free-living animal populations, spillover between host species, and patterns of invasion and consequences for wildlife populations. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford, UK, and he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 2008. 


Jamie Lloyd-Smith

James Lloyd-Smith is Professor in the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Biomathematics at University of California, Los Angeles, USA. His research programme explores the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases in animal and human populations, with emphasis on the emergence of zoonotic pathogens and drug-resistant strains. His group combines mathematical models, statistical analysis, and laboratory, clinical and field studies to learn about diseases such as monkeypox, leptospirosis and influenza. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, USA, where he studied heterogeneity in disease transmission dynamics, and he carried out his postdoctoral studies at Pennsylvania State University, USA. 


Hamish McCallum

Hamish McCallum is a professor in the Griffith School of Environment and Environmental Futures Institute at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. After his B.Sc. at Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, he completed his Ph.D. under the supervision of Roy Anderson at Imperial College London, UK. His research primarily focuses on the ecology of infectious diseases in wildlife using quantitative approaches. The systems he works on include Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, the amphibian chytrid fungus, Hendra virus in pteropid bats and chlamydial disease in koalas.


Vincent Munster

Dr. Vincent Munster received his Ph.D. in virology from Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 2006. During his Ph.D. studies, Dr. Munster studied the ecology, evolution, and pathogenesis of avian influenza viruses. Dr. Munster established the Virus Ecology Unit as an independent tenure-track investigator. The mission of the Virus Ecology Unit is to elucidate the ecology of emerging viruses and drivers of zoonotic and cross-species transmission. The Virus Ecology Unit uses a combined field and experimental research approach and conducts research at the state-of-the-art high- and maximum-containment facilities of the Rocky Mountain Laboratories, as well as at field study sites in Africa (the Republic of the Congo, Mali, Liberia), the Caribbean (Trinidad and Tobago), and the Middle East (Jordan). Since starting his own laboratory, Munster has been actively involved in the response to the ongoing MERS-CoV and Ebola virus outbreaks.


Mel Taylor

Dr Mel Taylor is an Occupational Psychologist at the School of Psychology, Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Her research focusses on human behaviour in the contexts of low probability, high consequence events such as pandemics, terrorism, emergency animal diseases, and disasters.

Mel is a project leader in the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre. She is currently working on two research projects; one in flood risk communication, and another on animal emergency management. Mel has recently completed two projects funded by the National Hendra Virus Research Program. The larger project was a three-year longitudinal study on the impacts of Hendra virus on horse owners risk perception and their practices.



Megan Higgs

Dr. Higgs is a statistician who loves to combine her statistical expertise with her background in biology and her knowledge gained from years of collaborating with environmental and ecological scientists. She served as the 2016 chair of the Section on Statistics and the Environment (ENVR) of the American Statistical Association (ASA), has been an Associate Professor of Statistics, a statistical consultant for environmental decision making, and is involved with the Statistical Consulting and Research Services at Montana State University. She believes in the importance of considering the philosophical and general practice issues involved in using statistical inference to inform science, management, and policy. ering the philosophical and general practice issues involved in using statistical inference to inform science, management, and policy.


Anna Jacobs

Anna earned a bachelor of science in biology and a second degree in science education from Bemidji State University in the deep woods of northern Minnesota.  Her senior research thesis for her biology degree took her to the Mekueni District of Kenya.  There she studied the tiered use of ethnobotany in rural communities.  Beginning in college, Anna spent part of ten years leading wilderness expeditions from Minnesota to Hawaii.  This was a great companion career to teaching high school science and math.  Having relocated with her young family to Bozeman, she is energetically reengaging in the university setting to facilitate research collaboration across the globe.


Postdoctoral Researchers

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Daniel Becker

Dan is a postdoc at Montana State University, working on the pathogen spillover and Hendra virus projects. Daniel earned his PhD from the University of Georgia, where he focused on resource provisioning, wildlife disease, and vampire bat immunology and epidemiology. He is interested in how food availability affects wildlife–pathogen interactions, linking within- and between-host infection processes, and how these perspectives can be applied to predicting spillover of zoonotic pathogens from wild bats and birds.


Alex Washburne

Alex is a postdoc at Montana State University, working in the pathogen spillover project. Alex received his PhD from Princeton University, studying ecological theory, in particular stochastic community dynamics and trophic island-biogeography in small and fragmented communities. He is interested in everything, and nowadays focuses his attention on phylogenetic patterns - in pathogens and in hosts - of spillover occurrence, frequency and cost, as well as other probabilistic models for assessing spillover risk. 


Sara Guenther

Sara is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT. She is interested in the politics that govern human impact on the environment, including human-wildlife interactions. At MSU, she studies the social and political factors that shape risk perception and management decisions related to Hendra virus spillover. Sara received her PhD in political science from the University of California, San Diego. Her dissertation examined the politics underlying relaxation of environmental regulations in the US. Prior to graduate school, she worked as a research associate at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Whale Acoustics Lab measuring the impact of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals.


Graduate Students


Devin Jones

Devin is a PhD candidate at Montana State University. Devin earned her Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee where she developed a passion for bats. She assisted with fieldwork and lab work examining the winter behavior and dietary habits of southern bats. Her Master of Science research at Grand Valley State University focused on the trophic transfer of a naturally occurring cyanotoxin, microcystin, from a freshwater lake to little brown bats. Outside of her Master’s research, she collaborates with Dr. Amy Russell (GVSU) and Veronica Brown (UT) to analyze dietary habits of bats using Next Generation Sequencing. 


Maureen Kessler

Maureen is a PhD candidate at Montana State University. She earned her master's degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and is broadly interested in the ecology of zoonotic pathogens. For her dissertation, she will be using an interdisciplinary approach across scales to investigate the dynamics of Hendra virus in reservoir populations of Australian fruit bats. More specifically, Maureen is using fieldwork and model-based approaches to investigate energetics and decision-making in bat foraging strategies between remnant native forest and the urban environments where virus spillover occurs. Concurrently, she is analyzing patterns of viral diversity within and between colonies for signatures of the epidemiological mechanisms driving Hendra virus phylodynamics in bat populations.


Tamika Lunn

Tamika joins the group as a PhD student from Griffith University, Australia, and is broadly interested in disease and quantitative ecology. For her dissertation, Tamika will investigate spatio-temporal patterns of Hendra virus in reservoir populations of flying foxes across multiple spatial scales. Specifically, she will be using fieldwork and model-based approaches to investigate the influence of gestation and waning maternal antibodies on individual susceptibility and viral shedding, as well as spatial modeling to examine the influence of roost structure fluctuation on viral transmission dynamics. She will combine this with broad landscape-scale modelling of Hendra prevalence to examine their roles in viral maintenance within populations.

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Adrienne Dale

Adrienne is a PhD student at Texas Tech University. She earned her BS in Wildlife Science at Virginia Tech and her MS in Conservation Medicine from Tufts University. Adrienne brings 8+ years of laboratory and field experience (the most recent 4.5 years being with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in DC) to support her efforts tracking flying foxes and studying their ecology including diet, movement, and stress responses. She’s interested in pursuing a career that combines disease and animal physiology with international fieldwork in order to learn about the ecological processes and their intersections with human cultures. In her spare time, she’s an avid traveler and would love to be involved in community outreach and global health research. 

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Emma Glennon

Emma is a PhD student and Gates-Cambridge Scholar at the University of Cambridge, where she models viral dynamics within bat reservoir hosts. She is interested in mechanisms of viral persistence and shedding at different scales, from chronic and recurring infections to metapopulation processes such as seasonal interactions between colonies. She holds an undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University.

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Caylee Falvo

Caylee is a PhD student at Montana State University. Caylee earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of California Berkeley in Molecular Toxicology and Molecular Environmental Biology, where she became interested in wildlife disease ecology and ecoimmunology. She received a Master of Science from Colorado State University focused on understanding how climate change influences the demography and physiology of hibernators, and her dissertation will investigate interactions between Australian fruit bat immune responses, Hendra virus, and environmental conditions.


Undergraduate Students


Ticha Padgett-Stewart

Ticha is an undergraduate student at Montana State earning a degree in microbiology. She has worked at the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation designing an eDNA assay as well as assisting in other work testing the applications of eDNA. She additionally conducted a research project assessing larval invertebrate diversity in the Salish Sea at the Shannon Point Marine Center. She is interested in work that combines molecular techniques with ecological thinking, especially disease ecology.