Dr Sarah Perkins

Dr Sarah Perkins

Lecturer

School of Biosciences

Email:
perkinss@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2087 0490
Location:
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX

My current research focusses on:

  • The role of individuals in disease persistence and invasion
  • Social networks and infectious disease dynamics
  • Using bioluminescent reporters to study real-time in vivo pathogen dynamics
  • Interactions between macrobiota (helminths) and microbiota (bacteria)
  • Wildlife diseases of small mammals
  • Citizen science

For more details of my research see Cardiff Research into Infection and Parasites in Ecological Systems (CRIPES) and Project Splatter.

I studied Environmental Science at Plymouth University after which I worked for the UK Wildlife Trusts as a Conservation Officer. I started my research career several years later with a NERC Fellowship at Aberdeen University studying for a MSc Ecology. After this, I completed my PhD at Stirling University with Prof. Peter Hudson, studying the ecological dynamics of disease with a NERC Fellowship based at the Centro di Ecologia Alpina in the Italian Alps. My post-doc took me to the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics (CIDD) at Penn State University. I returned to the UK in 2009 to start a Marie Curie Fellowship at Cardiff University, after completion of which I became a Lecturer at Cardiff University.

Postgraduate students

Current students

  • Chris Conway (MRes) – The smell of infection.
  • Emma Gillingham (PhD) – Climate change and parasitism
  • Emily Pascoe (PhD) – Macro-microbiome interactions

Prospective students

Please contact me if you are interested in graduate opportunities or research and field experience. I occasionally have funds for summer students and short-term research projects.

For full details of my research and those working in the group please see www.cripescardiff.ac.uk

I use a combination of field and laboratory experiments to determine the role of variation in infectious diseases.

What is the role of individuals in disease persistence and invasion?

Individuals within a population are not equal; they differ in their exposure and susceptibility to parasites. These heterogeneities in infection status can create "super-spreaders": hosts that have a disproportionately high contribution to the number of infective stages (often, 20% of the host population can account for at least 80% of pathogen and parasite transmission). Using parasites of small mammals and lab-insect systems I determine whether the most infected are also the most connected. Using these data I investigate the effect of co-infection, contact rates and infection load on super-spreading.

How do social networks alter disease dynamics?

Contacts between individuals are not equal – social network theory offers methods for visualizing and quantifying variation in contacts. I use social network analyses to determine the role of individuals in disease transmission and assess how epizootics and disease treatment can alter the contact structure of populations.

How do parasites interact?

Parasites within an individual do not function in isolation. I use wild rodents as a model system to study interactions between the macrobiota (helminths) and microbiota (bacteria). This work is carried out in collaboration with the Fondazione Edmund Mach as part of an 'incoming research team' grant.

Using bioluminescent reporters to study real-time in vivopathogen dynamics

In collaboration with Dr. Vyv Salisbury at the University of West England, UK, I use an in-vivo real-time imaging system to shed light on the dynamics of co-infection. Using an insect-pathogen system I use self-bioluminescent bacteria to determine how contacts patterns and pathogen load results in transmission between infected and susceptible individuals.

Citizen Science

Our group runs a citizen science project to collate wildlife kill – 'Project Splatter'.  Members of the public send us the location of UK wildlife roadkill – birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. We use GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to map where the roadkill is across the UK examining for hotspots. Our data are open access and we report results the public on Twitter (@ProjectSplatter) and Facebook. Please see our website for more information http://projectsplatter.wordpress.com/about/

Other

CRIPES - Every 2 weeks we run an informal discussion group called CRIPES (Cardiff Research onInfection and Parasites in Ecological Systems). If you would like to join this group, please email me –perkinss@cardiff.ac.uk.

Grants

My current research is funded by:

  • Natural Environment Research Council
  • Autonomous Province of Trentino
  • Universities Federation for Animal Welfare