The large-scale reporting of our studies in the media helped educate the general public so that they are better able to understand the role of new and emerging diseases in both animal and human populations.
impact statement issue
The research started when federal agencies and the media worried about a new disease that emerged in house finches in 1994 around Washington, D.C. Our research not only attempts to understand why this epidemic spread so rapidly, but also why some birds, but not others, and birds in some areas, but not in others, suffer from this disease. In the eastern United States, house finch numbers have declined by half, while in the West, numbers seem not to have declined.
impact statement response
We successfully applied for National Science Foundation (NSF) funding and were able to set up a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional team to study the system. Our results have been published in more than 45 scientific papers, in the Lab of Ornithology's newsletter Birdscope, and in many newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Science, and the New Scientist, thereby reaching both the scientific community and the general public.
impact statement summary
My research on disease in wild bird populations helps us understand the impact of new and emerging diseases on natural populations, and what factors contribute to their success. We study the dynamics of mycoplasmal conjunctivitis in house finches, a disease in wild birds caused by a novel form of a common poultry pathogen. By using a combination of field work, laboratory experiments, and mathematical modeling, we try to understand the role of host and pathogen genetic variation, host movement and behavior, ecological factors, and other bird species on the dynamics of the disease.
Dhondt, André Professor and Edwin H. Morgens Professor of Ornithology, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology