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Unveiling the effects of individual variation in epidemiology, ecology and evolution

24 Jan 2020 - Gabriela Gomes, CIBIO-InBIO/UP | 15h30
Unveiling the effects of individual variation in epidemiology, ecology and evolution


The concept of frailty was introduced in demography to describe individual variation in longevity. As the frailest individuals are removed earlier from a heterogeneous cohort, mean hazards appear to decrease over time leading to some of the most elusive effects in population dynamics. Despite the accumulation of documented fallacies associated with this type of selection within cohorts, the issue remains largely overlooked. I will expose the ubiquity of the phenomenon and propose a unified framework to infer the extent of individual variation and its effects, with examples of current interest in epidemiology, ecology, and evolution: (1) Vaccines appear less efficacious in high-incidence settings. Are they, really? (2) Why do infectious disease models have a tendency to overpredict the impact of interventions? (3) What is the real effect of Wolbachia on mosquito susceptibility to dengue viruses? (4) As populations of bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, their mortality rates decline due to selection for noninherited resistance. How does this affect the measurement of fitness effects of new mutations? (5) What does selection within cohorts add to the debate between neutral and niche theories of biodiversity?

Gabriela Gomes graduated in Applied Mathematics from the University of Porto in 1987, and completed her MSc and PhD in Mathematics from the University of Warwick in 1990 and 1993, respectively. In 1999, she was awarded a Welcome Research Training Fellowship in Mathematical Biology. In 2002, established her independent group at IGC, initially supported by a Marie Curie Excellence Grant, with a spectrum of projects ranging from fundamental mathematical concepts to management of population and ecosystem health, public engagement in science and development of research infrastructures. Between 2015 and 2019, she had a joint appointment at the Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, University of Porto, and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. She has published 80 peer-reviewed research articles in international journals, initially in Mathematics and Physics and more recently in Biology, Ecology and Epidemiology, and supervised 6 PhD students and many postdocs. She has served editorial boards of the Journal of Mathematical Biology and Journal of Theoretical Biology, and held visiting positions at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, University of Minnesota, and at the Mathematical Biosciences Institute, Ohio State University. Gabriela Gomes is a member of the Centre of Mathematics, University of Porto.

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