Ecological Parasitology

BIOL 3400B, Section B, CRN 96196

MWF 1:10pm-2pm in LAFAYETTE HALL L411 (8/28 to 12/8)

Welcome to the wonders of parasites!

Course Description:

In this course we will venture across all kingdoms of life and all continents on Earth to take a closer look at the lives of parasites. Although remarkably diverse, abundant, and widespread, parasites are vastly understudied. We will cover viruses, bacteria, protozoan parasites, and multicellular parasites of humans, wildlife, domestic animals, and plants. We will investigate the ecology and evolution of parasites as well as their effects on host populations, species, and communities. As parasites are a rising concern for global human public health and wildlife conservation alike, we will also focus on the shifts in host-parasite dynamics that lead to the emergence of infectious diseases in humans and wildlife worldwide.

Course Expectations: 

This course will require weekly readings including selected articles from the primary scientific literature as well as textbook readings (all available online).


Class participation, weekly readings, independent written reports, poster or oral presentation.


Ellen Martinsen is a biologist who has been studying parasites for over two decades with a focus on the parasites of birds, mammals, ticks, and mosquitoes. Her research centers around unveiling the true diversity of parasites in nature, identifying which parasites are able to switch into novel hosts, the factors that drive parasite distribution across hosts, time, and geography, and the ecological disruptions that lead to changes in host-parasite ecology. Ellen loves field work, lab work, mentoring research students, teaching, and discovering new parasites and new host-parasite associations.

Course Materials:

We will be reading selections from the Foundations of Parasitology textbook (available online for free as well as available via PDF) as well as scientific articles from the primary literature to broaden our perspectives on the ecology and evolution of parasites as well as focus in on particular parasites and the diseases they cause.