We work in the field of eco-evo-immunology, which integrates an ecological and evolutionary perspective to understand immune defence strategies. We use insects, particularly Drosophila melanogaster, as our models.
Host immune defences are complex traits that are vital for individual fitness. A central motivation behind the field of eco-evo-immunology is the observation that not all hosts are the same: some will become heavily infected by a pathogen, whereas others will be able to clear an infection (Schmid-Hempel 2011). Some infected hosts get sick and have significantly reduced fitness, whereas others can ameliorate the fitness cost of infection. In our research we try to understand why this is the case.
Our main focus is on understanding insect defences in the light of resistance and tolerance to pathogens.
Other projects we are, or have, worked on include understanding the interaction between sex and immunity, and the potential role of Down syndrome cell adhesion molecule 1 in insect immunity, social immune defences in fungus-growing ants, and the insect cuticle as a defence against pathogens.