REG-33306 Disease Ecology


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Field practical51
Course coordinator(s)dr. K Matson
Lecturer(s)dr. K Matson
dr. WF de Boer
Examiner(s)dr. K Matson

Language of instruction:


Mandatory knowledge:

ZSS06200 Fieldwork Safety

Assumed knowledge on:

Ecological interactions, basic physiology, basic microbiology, e.g.,

MBI: CSA-20806 Population and Systems Ecology or NEM-20806 Basics of Infectious Diseases

MFN: REG-20803 Applied Animal Ecology, REG-20306 Resource Ecology, REG-30306 Animal Ecology

MAS: QVE-20306 Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics, QVE-30306 Quantitative Veterinary Epidemiology, QVE-30806 Management of Infections and Diseases in Animal Populations.

Continuation courses:

Thesis MFN, MAS, MBI


The overarching aim of the course is to offer a current and comprehensive view of the causes and consequences of infectious disease at the levels of individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems. Primary objectives are that students understand 1) the host-parasite relationship as a key ecological interaction (i.e., analogous to the predator-prey relationship) and 2) the general approaches and specific techniques essential to the study disease ecology.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- summarize the key features and describe the impact/relevance of different infectious diseases affecting free-living organisms.
- evaluate behavioral and ecological factors that affect spatio-temporal variation in disease outbreaks.
- make and justify predictions relating to ecological variation and host immune defenses.
- assess methods for studying diseases and host defenses of wild populations.
- design and implement an ecological study to answer a question related to diseases and host defenses.
- develop and analyze compartmental models and other SIR models, including through the use of programming software (e.g., R).
- appraise the strengths and limitations of modelling diseases and outbreaks in wild populations.
- compare and contrast scenarios that would and would not result in a disease outbreak.
- evaluate potential interventions for their capacity to control an outbreak.


The following items are core components of this course:
- attending lectures and practicals
- reading assigned literature
- participating case studies and other collaborative classroom activities
- searching for and reading relevant supplemental literature;
- modelling disease in wild or captive model populations;
- carrying out experiments;
- analyzing data collected during the experiments;
- presenting results from models and experiments.


Three main components will contribute equally to the final grade:

-Final examination (based on entire lecture/theory component)

-Project I (computer/modelling practical; here a subset of the exercise is submitted for evaluation)

-Project II (field/laboratory practical; here short research summaries supported by PowerPoint (or equivalent) slides are presented in class for evaluation)

The following aspects of both projects will be used for assessment: 1) clarity of and integration into disease ecology framework; 2) depth and quality of analyses; 3) quality, relevance, and appropriate use of peer-reviewed scientific literature and other sources; and 4) overall presentation technique and layout.

To pass the course, a minimum grade of 5.5 is required for each component (examination, project I, and project II).


Resources, including the following, will be made digitally available: hand-outs from the lectures; the required readings (usually two articles per double lecture); additional related (and sometimes non-required) literature and audio-visual files; and background, explanations and protocols for the modelling and field practical components.

Restricted Optional for: MBIBiologyMScD: Spec. D - Ecology6WD
MBIBiologyMScC: Spec. C - Health and Disease6WD
MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScB: Spec. B - Management6WD
MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScC: Spec. C - Ecology6WD
MASAnimal SciencesMScF: Spec. F - Animal Ecology6WD
Compulsory for: WUGOHBSc Minor Global one Health6WD