Graduate students

Kirsten McMillan (PhD candidate)



Contact information

Dept. of Biology, S625, Laurentian University 

Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, On, P3E2C6

Phone: +1-705-675-1151 ext.2700




Understanding the causes and consequences of diminishing biodiversity and the ecology of infectious diseases are increasingly important areas of research within environmental sciences. The majority of research and mitigation has focused on the emergence or re-emergence of human diseases. However, in recent years, it has become increasingly more apparent that Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs) have significant effects on biological communities. In fact, in some cases, pathogens have caused host extinctions. While establishing the cause of extinction is difficult and candidate model species are few, amphibians appear to be an ideal specimen as increasing evidence suggests that we are facing a global population decline. Ranavirus (family Iridoviridae) and the Chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) are the primary pathogens associated with amphibian mortalities. One of the central questions regarding the epidemiology of many EIDs is to understand their pattern of spread. Previous events, such as the 2001 Foot and Mouth disease epidemic in the UK, have highlighted the significance of barriers to transmission. However, much more remains to be done. Most model-based projections of the spread of disease still treat the landscape as homogenous, failing to account for variation in landscape. Yet, as landscape features determine the abundance and spatial distributions of hosts and pathogen vectors, it is probable that landscape heterogeneity may be instrumental in determining local disease risk, pathogen persistence and spread.


I am interested in epidemiological patterns of infectious diseases and the circumstances that contribute to pathogen-induced extinctions. My research aims to understand how environmental heterogeneity influences the emergence and spread of amphibian EIDs. My results are expected to enhance plans to decrease amphibian population declines while reducing the potential costs of disease management. I hope to address this important epidemiological issue while bridging a gap between landscape ecology and conservation management.