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Dr. Courtney Murdock

I am currently a postdoctoral researcher working with Dr. Matthew Thomas and Dr. Andrew Read in the Department of Entomology and Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University.  

 

Please click here for a recent paper on my current research:

"Complex effects of temperature on mosquito immune function"

 

I received my Ph.D. from the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan where I studied the transmission ecology of avian malaria and other related blood parasites in a breeding community of birds located in the vicinity of the Rocky Mountain Biological Station in Colorado.  

 

 

Research interests

 

1. Ecological immunology of insect vectors

I am interested in the ecology and evolution of host-parasite interactions. In particular, my research investigates how environmental factors (e.g. temperature, nutrition, humidity) affect the outcome of parasite-host associations either through direct effects on parasite growth and development within the host and / or through indirect effects on host immunity, physiology, and condition. Recent research explores the hypothesis that temperature is an important environmental driver of geographic variation in resistance and susceptibility of insect vector populations to vector-borne parasites. My current work involves empirical and statistical approaches to better understand the effects of temperature on a suite of key innate immune responses and overall vector competence of the Asian malaria vector, Anopheles stephensi.

 

2. Stress and Immune Interactions

Vertebrates and invertebrates both rely heavily on three communicating physiological super systems (the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems) to coordinate appropriate physiological and behavioral responses to a particular life history stage, external environmental stressor, or to parasitic challenge.  Historically, researchers have approached the study of the nervous and endocrine systems in an integrated fashion.  Surprisingly, the immune system of most organisms has been studied in isolation from these other physiological systems, and until relatively recently has been thought to be impervious to environmental change.  I am interested in exploring how environmental factors influence the communication among these three physiological systems, and in particular, how these physiological interactions influence the fitness of insect vectors and their ability to transmit vector-borne parasites.

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