Interacting Populations: Hosts and Pathogens, Prey and Predators

Petra Klepac, Ph.D., 2007
Michael Neubert, Advisor

The interactions between populations can be positive, neutral or negative. Predation and parasitism are both relationships where one species benefits from the interaction at the expense of the other. Predators kill their prey instantly and use it only for food, whereas parasites use their hosts both as their habitat and their food. I am particularly interested in microbial parasites (including bacteria, fungi, viri, and some protozoans) since they cause many infectious diseases.

This thesis consideres two different points in the population-interaction spectrum and focuses on modeling host-pathogen and predator-prey interactions. The first part focuses on epidemiology, i.e., the dynamics of infectious diseases, and the estimation of parameters using the epidemiological data from two different diseases, phocine distemper virus that affects harbor seals in Europe, and the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in Cuba. The second part analyzes the stability of the predator-prey populations that are spatially organized into discrete units or patches. Patches are connected by dispersing individuals that may, or may not differ in the duration of their triip. This travel time is incorporated via a dispersal delay in the interpatch migration term, and has a stabilizing effect on predator-prey dynamics.