Black-backed jackals in Etosha National Park, Namibia. Photo by Steve Bellan
In addition to studying anthrax in mega-herbivores, Getz lab member Steve Bellan is looking at how the behavior of scavengers, like the black-backed jackals shown above, contributes to the dynamics of infectious diseases.
The striking difference between the mechanisms of rabies transmission (direct host-host contact) and anthrax transmission (consumption of bacterial spores) highlights the role of behavior in determining disease dynamics.
Rabies outbreaks reflect the territorial structure of jackal populations--a disease front quickly moves through the landscape. In contrast, anthrax outbreaks are episodic in nature reflecting poorly understood interactions between foraging behavior, environmental conditions, and spore dispersal.
Update March 2013:
Steve received his PhD in 2012 and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, where he uses a combination of mathematical modeling and field work to gain insight into the epidemiological dynamics of infectious diseases in wildlife (such as anthrax) as well as diseases of humans.