Center for Environmental Studies

Julie Blackwood on “Persistence, Pathogenesis, and the Control of Bat-borne Pathogens"

Julie Blackwood is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Williams College, and on January 27, 2014, she gave a Log Lunch talk on the ecological aspects of her mathematical research. Blackwood studies models of bats and analyzes them in order to help bat populations and prevent unnecessary human aggravation. Bats are important ecological characters that not only affect other wild animals but also affect humans. They are reservoirs for zoonotic diseases and there is a high risk of rabies transmission from vampire bats in areas in Latin America. Bats lead to 100,000 livestock deaths per years which equals 30 million dollars lost every year. The loss of livestock and financial loss have led to a strong anti-vampire bat sentiments among the people of Latin America. By looking at different models of bat behavior, Blackwood builds new models that can help determine if people should be using vampiracide. Through her research, Blackwood concluded that within colonies, if there is a rabies infection, then they may develop immunity. She also determined that culling would just increase bat interaction because there are higher immigration rates in the other colonies.

Blackwood also spoke about white-nose syndrome, a recently discovered widespread disease that causes many hibernating bats in the northeast to die. The disease makes infected bats either freeze to death or starve. White-nose syndrome has killed 80 percent of the hibernating bats in the northeast. Blackwood hopes to build models of the transmission cycles and combines those with the routes, cycles, and network structure of hibernating bats. Blackwood concluded by emphasis the importance of bat pathogens and the use of math in field studies.

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Julie Blackwood