Long-term study – Impact of climate change on small mammal communities and risks of spillover infections

Project Team: Balaji Chattopadhyay, Shivani Krishna, Imroze Khan, Kritika Garg, Bittu Kaveri Rajaraman

Researchers: Pilot Dovih

Project start: 2022

Focus Areas:

Emerging infectious diseases have become a major threat to human well-being in the past few decades. Majority of these diseases are zoonotic in origin. While enormous resources are spent every year towards curative measures of such infections, little is known about the ecological, biological, and evolutionary contingents of such outbreaks.

It is well documented that human mediated degradation of natural habitats and climate change have in conjunction imperilled wildlife and forced them into proximity with humans. Such coerced cohabitation can facilitate pathogen movement between wild hosts, live-stocks and ultimately into humans. However, we are yet to ascertain the responses of biological communities (a group of interacting species in an area) to climatic fluctuations and human disturbances, and its effect in increasing risks of spillover infections.

This proposal aims to address this lacuna by using a long-term integrated approach combining both molecular and ecological methods across a habitat gradient, to understand the potential of zoonotic spillovers. Further, it will establish a successful monitoring regime for potential zoonotic diseases, and generate critical information on the ecological and evolutionary consequences of climate change on biodiversity.