Danielle M. Tufts

Postdoc

Danielle is a vector-borne disease ecologist interested in evolutionary genetics, pathogen transmission pathways, ecological drivers of pathogen emergence, and host-vector-parasite interactions and co-infections. Her goal is to enhance our understanding of these complex interactions by combining theory from disease ecology and genetics research with empirical approaches. She utilizes field collected and laboratory derived samples, mathematical models to connect these findings to patterns found in nature, and analyzes these samples using the molecular tools. Her previous projects have focused on understanding how tick-borne pathogens (Borrelia burgdorferi and Babesia microti) may facilitate and enhance infection in their natural reservoir host (Peromyscus leucopus) using field-derived data from a multi-year, longitudinal, mark-recapture study and a multi-state Markov model to assess transition likelihoods between different infection states. She was also the first investigator in the US to discover that vertical transmission (a non-vector mediated pathogen pathway) may be contributing to the high prevalence and emergence of B. microti in natural rodent populations. Currently, she is investigating host specialization of different B. burgdorferi strains, behavioral and genetic analyses of the newly invasive Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis), and the distribution and host preferences of H. longicornis. She enjoys collaborating with fellow scientists both nationally and internationally to develop integrative and synergist research projects.