Current Group Members

2015-09-04 08.45.38Mike Boots: After a mostly empirical PhD at Liverpool, I held a JSPS Postdoctoral fellowship in the Entomology Department of Kyoto University and a European Union Postdoctoral Fellowship in the mathematical biology group in Kyushu. I then worked in the medical entomology department of the Institute of Tropical Medicine, applying mathematical models to problems in human disease interactions and working on vector ecology in the medical entomology department. I returned to the UK in 2000, on a NERC Advanced Fellowship, and subsequently held Readerships at the Universities of Stirling and Sheffield. I was made Professor of Disease Biology in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences in Sheffield in 2007, moved to Exeter in 2011 and to UC Berkeley in 2015. My google profile is here.

Postdoctoral Research Associates & Research Fellows


Ben Ashby: I am a theoretical evolutionary biologist interested in the evolution and ecology of hosts and their parasites. Following my post-doc in the Boots lab (2014-16) I joined the University of Bath as a NERC Independent Research Fellow, although I am still based at UC Berkeley until Autumn 2018. My research focuses on the interplay between the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of hosts and their parasites. I use mathematical models and numerical simulations to understand the evolution of a wide range of host and parasite traits, including resistanceinfectivityvirulence, and reproductive strategies. I have recently reconciled theory on sexual selection and host-parasite coevolution, as well as theory on different models of infection genetics. I am currently developing theory on host and parasite (co)evolution in complex communities along with new methods at the interface of adaptive dynamics and classic population genetics approaches to understand the importance of ecological feedbacks.

For a full list of publications, see my Google Scholar profile or visit my website.

pennyatlarge001Penny Lynch: 
Having recklessly abandoned undergraduate biology back in 1980, I built a career in finance before finally returning to science via a part-time maths degree and a PhD (co-supervised by Uwe Grimm and Andrew Read) modelling the effects of health interventions on the evolution of life history in disease causing organisms. A large part of my PhD involved modelling the potential disease control benefits and evolutionary consequences of novel interventions targetting malaria vectors. I have maintained my interest in this area, and my current research comprises the development and application of mathematical models which consider vector ecology and life history to explore the potential benefits of new vector control methods. I am also still exploring ways to manage and perhaps even exploit the evolutionary effects of human interventions on vector populations.

Penny’s: Exeter Profile  ResearchGate Profile  Publon Profile

carlydefense-picCarly Rozins: Before joining the Boots lab in September 2016, I was at Queen’s University, in Ontario Canada, completing my PhD in Applied Mathematics. My supervisors at Queen’s were Troy Day and Peter Taylor and my primary research area was mathematical biology. In the past I have primarily developed models for the spread of infectious diseases. After completing my MSc in 2009, I held an internship at Public Health and McGill University, in Montreal Quebec, as a modeller during the swine flu pandemic. Over the past three years, while at Queen’s, I have developed models for the spread and evolution of Marek’s disease, a disease of poultry, within industrial poultry farms. My most recent project on Marek’s disease aims to evaluate the economic impact of controlling virulence evolution within the egg industry. This project is being funded by the Egg Farmers of Canada. Currently Lewis Bartlett and I are developing models to investigate how apiary structure and practices may be driving the evolution of virulence of honey bee pathogens.

258922_407026539361625_372221468_oRyosuke Iritani: After graduating from Kyoto University, I entered Kyushu University to work with Yoh Iwasa. While visiting Montpellier (France) and Lausanne (Switzerland), I theoretically studied effects of space on dispersal, cooperation, and parasite-mediated xenophobia, using adaptive dynamics and inclusive fitness theory. Also, I’ve been working on host manipulation of parasites and cancer oncolytic virus dynamics. I finished my PhD in March 2016. In Berkeley, we are going to work on: (1) coevolutionary branching in host-parasite system, (2) host-parasite conflict resolution, and (3) host-parasite spatial structuring.

Visit my website for more details.

senay_picSenay Yitbarek: I completed my PhD in Biology at the University of Michigan in December of 2016 under the supervision of John Vandermeer. I combined mathematical and empirical approaches to study the population level consequences of spatial networks. My modeling work examined the effects of spatial network structures on multi-species coexistence, ranging from small-world networks to regular random graphs. I complemented this approach with experiments using ant species as a model system in tropical agricultural ecosystems. In 2017, I started as an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Boots lab. I am examining the role of spatial network structure on the evolution of multi-pathogen virulence. To this end, I am conducting multi-pathogen experiments in the Plodia system and developing network based disease models.

Graduate Students

YH Profile Shot

Lewis Bartlett: graduated in Zoology from Selwyn College, University of Cambridge in 2013. After working on a collection of projects with UNEP, Microsoft Research, University of York, and University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute, I began my NERC-funded PhD with University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation in September 2014. My research background spans a range of evolutionary ecology topics, from quaternary mammal extinctions, to experimental evolution of fungal pathogens. Across these study systems, computational approaches to empirical problems has been a defining common thread.  My current work focusses on how spatial structuring of host populations influences pathogen evolution, with specific application to the commercial management of honeybees. Working with University of Georgia and Emory University (GA), we are testing how different beekeeping management regimes affect the evolution of honeybee viruses, especially deformed wing virus, and their parasitic vector the varroa mite. I complement this approach with empirical lab work using our Plodia interpunctella / PiGV system, as well as simulation modelling, based at UC Berkeley.

Lewis’: LinkedIn  ResearchGate  Twitter  Exeter Webpage  Google Scholar

LauraPictureLaura Ward Alexander: After graduating from University of Georgia with degrees in microbiology and in ecology, my research has focussed on using mathematical models to better understand emerging infectious diseases, both in humans and in wildlife. I worked on projects with the Park Lab at UGA, including the US response to the 2014 West African ebola outbreak. I’ve now moved to UC Berkeley to undertake my PhD, applying epidemiological models to other emerging diseases such as Zika virus.

Laura’s:  ResearchGate  Twitter

Elisa Picture

Elisa Visher: I graduated from Yale University in 2014 with a BS Intensive in Biology and a BA in Anthropology.  While at Yale, I focused my studies on evolutionary medicine from both the host and pathogen perspectives.  I worked with Paul Turner on projects involving experimental evolution of bacteriophage and Brenda Bradley on a number of projects relating to primate genomics. After finishing my undergrad, I moved to University of Michigan for 2 years where I worked as a research tech with Adam Lauring. There, I worked on mutational fitness effects in Influenza A.

I started my PhD at Berkeley in 2016. I mostly do experimental evolution with our Plodia / PiGV empirical system, but am starting to learn some math modeling methods. I’m interested in the effects of host genetic variation on virulence evolution and, from the host side, the mechanisms of maintaining this diversity. I am very interested in using empirical research in model systems to begin to understand how host social structures affect viral evolution. I’m currently funded by the NSF GRFP for “Effects of Spatio-temporally Structured Host Variation on Infectious Disease Evolution”.

Elisa’s Google Scholar


lab profile photoSarah Guth: I graduated from Middlebury College in 2015 with a degree in Conservation Biology. As an undergraduate, I was involved in a range of environmental research projects, in which I studied: the effects of pesticides on pollinator behavior, the economic impact of wind turbine visibility, and eutrophication in Lake Champlain. After graduating, I spent two years working for the Planetary Health Alliance, where I developed a strong interest in how the changing environment is affecting human health, particularly in respect to vector borne disease dynamics. At UC Berkeley, I plan to use a combination of spatial and mathematical models to study drivers of vector borne disease transmission, emergence, and severity.