Research

The Civitello lab takes an integrative approach to the study of ecological dynamics. We study aquatic, disease, and agricultural ecology through a combination of experiments, field surveys and models. We draw on approaches from consumer-resource ecology, epidemiology, ecostoichiometry, and socio-ecological systems. We primarily focus on disease in aquatic systems, that are relevant for basic research, conservation, and human health, but we get excited about ecological dynamics in a variety of systems.

Current research topics in the lab:

Infectious disease in communities. Host-parasite interactions do not occur in isolation. Instead, they are embedded in ecological communities. Other species can alter disease outbreaks by serving as predators, competitors, or prey for hosts and parasites. We are interested in understanding the mechanisms by which these additional species affect host-parasite interactions and identifying the traits that predict which species will have the greatest positive or negative effects on disease dynamics.

Study systems: invasive aquatic plants, resistant snails, and fish predators in the snail-schistosome system, Burkholderia symbionts of squash bugs


Parasite transmission. We have ongoing work aimed at understanding how life stage, body size, and symbiont infection status affect the ability of hosts to transmit parasites. We aim to build mechanistic models of parasite transmission in structured populations to improve our ability to forecast disease dynamics.

Study systems: snail-schistosomes, squash bugs-Serratia


Host-parasite bioenergetics. Parasites need to steal energy and resources while host defense can be costly. We use bioenergetic theory applied to hosts and parasites to synthesize a diverse range of questions in disease ecology related to natural dynamics and control of human schistosomes.

Study systems: snail-schistosomes


Wildlife disease management. We engage in a multi-lab collaboration to test whether a prophylactic treatment can disrupt outbreaks of the virulent chytrid pathogen and strengthen amphibian conservation

Study systems: amphibian-fungus


Social-Ecological Systems and agroecology. We are building an international collaborative team to evaluate sustainable agricultural practices surrounding the integration of the aquatic plant Azolla with rice farming in northern Senegal.

Study systems: Azolla-rice