Postdoctoral Researcher

IST Austria
Am Campus 1
A-3400 Klosterneuburg

email: megan.kutzer (AT) ist.ac.at

 

RESEARCH INTEREST

 

Group living and sociality promote disease spread in populations, making eusocial insects (i.e. social bees, wasps, ants, and termites) particularly vulnerable to infections. Thus, social insects have evolved collective disease defenses to protect themselves and the colony from succumbing to an infection, such as sanitary care behaviors, but little is known concerning how these defenses interact to protect the colony as a whole. When we think about host immune defenses, we intuitively think about resistance, which limits parasite replication or growth and/or clears an infection. Over the past decade however, it has become apparent that disease tolerance, which limits parasite induced- or self-damage without targeting parasite load, also plays an important role in host defense across animal taxa from insects to mammals. The concept of disease tolerance has not been applied at the level of eusocial insect colonies and few studies have looked at the tolerance of social insects at the individual level. However, it is feasible that societies have evolved collective disease tolerance, where the loss of individual group members due to infection can be compensated for by the remainder of the group. I am interested in exploring these colony level defense strategies. By doing so, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of how insect societies interact to offset the negative effects associated with a parasitic infection, which may prove valuable to the study of epidemiology and disease transmission dynamics in human populations.



CAREER

2017-current  Postdoctoral researcher, IST Austria, Austria

                             (ISTFELLOW program (Co-fund Marie Curie Actions of the European Commission))

2013-2017      PhD in Biology, University of Münster, Germany

 

2010-2012      MSc in Biology/Animal Ecology, Lund University, Sweden

 

1999-2003      BA in Anthropology and Sociology, St. Mary's College Maryland, USA



FUNDING