SESYNC Welcomes Postdoctoral Fellow Colin Carlson

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Jan 31, 2018
The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) is pleased to welcome Dr. Colin Carlson as a new Postdoctoral Fellow. Colin recently finished his Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy, & Management at the University of California, Berkeley. Get to know our newest researcher:
Name: Colin Carlson
Ph.D.: Environmental Science, Policy, & Management
Hometown: Coventry, CT
SESYNC Project: Network models for emerging infectious disease
How would you describe your primary field of study? 
Global change biology 
What are the broad questions you are interested in studying?
Ecologists play a critical role in understanding where emerging diseases come from, but how far in the future can ecologists predict emerging threats to global health? How do climate change and biodiversity loss interact with emerging disease? How do neglected processes, like parasite extinction, change or even destabilize ecosystems?
What inspired you to choose this field of study?
Parasites might be the most common form of life on earth, and we barely understand the scale of their diversity, let alone what impacts climate change will have on tens of thousands of vertebrate parasites, and potentially tens of millions of invertebrate parasites. Big changes are coming and I think there's never been a more exciting time to be a disease ecologist.
Can you briefly describe your proposed SESYNC postdoctoral project?
I use network methods (both social networks and host-pathogen association networks) as a tool to understand the spread and emergence of infectious disease, especially recently-emerged vector-borne illnesses like Zika. More broadly I'm writing about how we make models and what the broader context of anticipatory modeling is in disease ecology; what do forecasts mean to policymakers? How do we convey uncertainty? How do we account for all of the complexities of biodiversity loss, emerging disease, climate change, land use change, and socioeconomic disparities in the way we communicate modeling work?
Why is SESYNC the right place to undertake this research?
Interdisciplinarity and synthesis are big ideas in disease ecology, and have been for at least a decade, especially in the aftermath of Ebola and Zika; but how we harness interdisciplinarity and synthesis most effectively in modeling work is still an open question. Working at SESYNC allows me to be surrounded by both ecologists and social scientists who, on a daily basis, challenge me across that continuum to broaden my thinking and refine my approach. 
What are you reading right now?
Lately I'm re-reading Dune. I'm never not re-reading Dune. The dedication to dryland ecologists, and the themes of power and climate change and the fragility (and resilience) of human-ecosystem interactions? I can't get enough of it. Also I'm a big fan of worms.
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