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Mathematical Models for Mosquito-borne Infectious Diseases of Wildlife

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posted on 01.05.2020, 02:53 by Kyle J Dahlin
Wildlife diseases are an increasingly growing concern for public health managers, conservation biologists, and society at large. These diseases may be zoonotic -- infective wildlife are able to spread pathogens to human populations. Animal or plant species of conservation concern may also be threatened with extinction or extirpation due to the spread of novel pathogens into their native ranges. In this thesis, I develop some mathematical methods for understanding the dynamics of vector-borne diseases in wildlife populations which include several elements of host and vector biology.

We consider systems where a vector-borne pathogen is transmitted to a host population wherein individuals either die to disease or recover, remaining chronically infective. Both ordinary differential equations (ODE) and individual based (IBM) models of such systems are formulated then applied to a specific system of wildlife disease: avian malaria in Hawaiian honeycreeper populations -- where some species endure disease-induced mortality rates exceeding 90\%. The ODE model predicts that conventional management methods cannot fully stop pathogen transmission.

Vector dispersal and reproductive biology may also play a large role in the transmission of vector-borne diseases in forested environments. Using an IBM which models dispersal and mosquito reproductive biology, we predict that reducing larval habitat at low elevations is much more effective than at higher elevations. The ODE model is extended to include distinct populations of sensitive and tolerant hosts. We find that the form which interaction between the hosts takes has a significant impact on model predictions.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy



Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Zhilan J. Feng

Additional Committee Member 2

Matthew C. Medeiros

Additional Committee Member 3

Gregery T. Buzzard

Additional Committee Member 4

Nung K. Yip