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M. Maille Lyons – Post-Doctoral Fellow: PhD, Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs; MA, University of  California, Los Angeles; BS, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

Project Title: From ship to shore:  The role of marine aggregates in the fate of human pathogens
Mentors & Collaborators: J. Evan Ward, Sylvain De Guise, Fred Dobbs, Roxanna Smolowitz

Summary: Research efforts on the basic biology and ecology of marine-associated diseases have increased over the past few decades as our appreciation for their impacts on individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems has grown (Harvell et al., 2004). The health of coastal ecosystems is connected to the health of humans by impacting the extent to which humans are exposed to pathogens via polluted beaches and contaminated shellfish (Sandifer et al., 2007).  One source of pathogens in coastal ecosystems is the discharge of ballast water from ocean-going vessels (e.g., Ruiz et al., 2000). In this project we are investigating the role of marine aggregates (i.e., marine snow, organic aggregates) in the fate and dispersal of pathogens discharged from ballast-water tanks. Information on the distribution of pathogens (both in and out of marine aggregates) is essential to support local management decisions about closures of recreational beaches and shellfish-growing waters. Consequently, the dispersal of aquatic pathogens has substantial economic ramifications and has been identified as “an urgent priority for future research” (Harvell et al., 2004). 

Future Directions:  My future plans combine academia with public health services to advance the use of eco-epidemiology in marine disease ecology.