Friday, March 18, 2016

Alexander research group hosts co-investigators from New York and Wales

Over the past few days, the team CARACAL and the Alexander research group have played host to two of the key collaborators on several of our ongoing projects (most notably our Banded Mongoose disease ecology project and our work on the Chobe River system), Doctors Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University in New York and Stephen Tooth of Aberystwyth University in Wales.

Dr Shaman is an expert in the complex relationships between climatic conditions and the spread of infectious diseases, which is a key consideration in our work on antibiotic resistance along the Chobe River system as well as in our ongoing work on human health in the Chobe region and our work on M. mungi, the novel pathogen that was discovered by the Alexander Research Group in the early 2000's and which has since been a focal point of our research activities in Northern Botswana. Dr Shaman is a renowned infectious disease modeler and forecaster, and his contributions in the areas described above will help us to gain a detailed and nuanced understanding of some of the key determinants of the behaviour and the spread of pathogens and zoonoses across the rich ecosystems and communities of the Chobe region.

Dr Tooth, on the other hand, is an authority on the functions and behaviors of dryland river systems, the crucial habitats they provide, and the extraordinary hydrological processes which underpin their existence. He is also an expert on those unique and surprising ecosystems – dryland wetlands; exceedingly rare, even more important ecologically, and inclusive of much of the vast floodplains and backwaters which exist around the Upper Zambezi and the Chobe River. His previous work has focused on the arid and semi-arid inland regions of Australia and South Africa, and he is currently bringing his experience to bear on the under-examined and, conversely, vitally important dynamics of the interconnected Chobe and Zambezi Rivers, assisting the Alexander Research Group in their efforts to better understand the geomorphology, sedimentology and fluvial mechanics which together determine the characteristics of these watercourses and the manners in which they continuously change, both seasonally and in terms of the comparatively far grander scale of geological time.

This visit was useful for a number of reasons, not least of which being the opportunity to acquaint the two of them with the places, processes and systems which they will do so much to understand and conserve in the months and years to come. It is difficult to overstate the value of time spent in the field with experts such as Dr Tooth and Dr Shaman and the profound impact this can have on the way we perceive the systems and processes which the members of CARACAL and the Alexander Research Group spend so much of their time studying.

We therefore thank Drs Shaman and Tooth for sharing their valuable time and expertise with us and look forward to what will no doubt be a productive and mutually beneficial relationship as we move forward together. It was a real pleasure having both of them here, and we hope that they'll visit again soon!

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