Infectious diseases of marine organisms are on the increase, and yet processes governing host infectivity and pathogen virulence are poorly known, especially for non-commercial marine invertebrates. Indeed, one of the emerging frontiers in ocean research is invertebrate-microbial interactions. Despite these knowledge gaps, the prediction is that diseases will increase in warming oceans and become an ever-present component of near-shore ecological interactions. This course will be a training program in invertebrate-pathogen ecology that will bring together and train the future leaders in this rapidly emerging, multidisciplinary field. The course will 1) survey host-pathogen interaction in the Friday Harbor region, 2) teach diagnostic tools for identifying viral, bacterial, protozoan and fungal infections of invertebrates, 3) teach approaches to examine the invertebrate innate immune response to different pathogens, and finally 4) use these methods to address ecological questions about the distribution of pathogenic interactions, and the experimental effects of temperature and increased acidification on interactions.
A primary goal of the program is to provide advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral investigators with a broad understanding of host-pathogen interactions as well as the techniques used to study the ecology of marine animals in situ. By bringing together top researchers in host-pathogen interactions, we provide students with a unique opportunity to work side by side with world experts using state-of-the-art tools and technologies. The program also provides a setting for developing and testing new technologies and methods. We also hope it will serve as a research magnet, attracting leading scientists to conduct their own research in a creative teaching and learning environment that catalyzes interactions across the various disciplines associated with Marine Disease Ecology.
In a broader sense, this project will add to our limited understanding of how climate change affects the ecological health of temperate coastal communities. It will also help to address basic information gaps concerning direct biological effects of climate change on susceptible species and the dynamics of parasitism and symbiosis. This understanding is critical to developing realistic management schemes for mitigating impacts of climate change.