People

Meggan Craft: Principal Investigator


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craft004@umn.edu                                                  Image credit: The Minnesota Daily and Liam James Doyle

I am an infectious disease ecologist; the broad aim of my research program is to understand infectious disease dynamics in animal and human populations. I test hypotheses regarding disease spread and consequent control through parameterizing theoretical disease models with empirical data. I am interested in two fundamental areas: (i) How are pathogens maintained in multi-host ecosystems? (ii) How does heterogeneity in population contact structure affect pathogen dynamics? My research is inherent interdisciplinary as I work at the intersection of environmental, human, and animal health. I enjoy running, traveling, photography, and spending time with my family and dog.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Matt Michalska-Smith: Postdoctoral Researcher

michalsm@umn.edu

Matt is a current postdoc working in the Craft Lab. He got his PhD in Theoretical Ecology from the University of Chicago and is particularly interested in the relationship between network structure and ecological processes that play out on those networks. Most recently, the system of choice has been diseases spreading on contact networks. While he occasionally utilizes specific case studies to exemplify his research, he is most drawn to broad theoretical questions with implications beyond any particular system. He enjoys biking and reading, including doing both with his toddler daughter.

Graduate Students

Janine Mistrick: PhD Student

Janine Mistrick is a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior who started in 2018. She received her B.S. in Ecology (as well as a B.S. in French and Francophone Studies) from Penn State University and is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship recipient. She has worked extensively in field ecology conducting: plant phenology and shrub expansion research in western Greenland, acoustic surveys for bats in the Chugach National Forest in Alaska, radio telemetry monitoring of sage-grouse in Wyoming, and trapping wild rodents in a longitudinal population and parasite study in central Pennsylvania. Her research interests include the role of landscape and habitat features in shaping animal movement and community composition and the influence of these factors on disease dynamics in wildlife populations. She’s fascinated by the power of network modeling and genomic techniques to bolster conclusions made from ecological data and hopes to incorporate these analyses into her dissertation research. When Janine isn’t out in the field or fumbling her way through the lab, she can be found working out at the gym, baking delicious goodies for lab meetings, paddling all 10,000 Minnesota lakes in her kayak, or listening to jazz public radio.

Chris Wojan: PhD Student

wojan002@umn.edu

Chris Wojan started as a PhD student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in 2021. He received a B.S. in Ecology and Environmental Biology from the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire, and an M.S. in Biology from New Mexico State University. He spent several years working as a field technician in various locations, including monitoring vegetation change in the Chihuahuan Desert, sampling mammal and invertebrate populations in northern Wisconsin, and surveying ticks and mosquitoes in southern Indiana. Chris is interested in movement ecology, wildlife disease dynamics, and the relationship between individual variation and population patterns. Outside of ecology research, he enjoys playing guitar, designing silly board/card games, bicycling, and jogging.

Past Lab Members

Nick Fountain-Jones: Postdoctoral Researcher    
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nfj@umn.edu  personal blog: nickfountainjones.wordpress.com

Nick is a Research Associate at the University of Tasmania. As a postdoctoral researcher in the Craft Lab, Nick looked at pathogen community ecology in big cats and in birds (they really are great habitat!). The focus of his research is with viruses, but he is also interested in any multi-pathogen system (or even one pathogen with many genotypes). Nick tries to bridge the gap between community ecology and phylogenetics by using one to inform the other. Nick enjoys teaching and mentoring students of all ages. Other research projects of Nick’s include: agent-based and system dynamics models to better understand highly pathogenic avian influenza, understanding the phylogenetic dimensions of rabies models, and using functional traits to understand anthropogenic impacts on a variety of organisms in tall forest to urban landscapes. Nick has a broad interest in applied and theoretical community ecology and a passion for anything invertebrate/parasitic.  In his spare time he is a self-proclaimed “mad home-brewer” and loves to get out skiing, biking and hiking as much as possible.

Lauren White: Postdoctoral Researcher 
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Lauren Oct 4, 2014001-2
whit1951@umn.edu laurenwhitediseaseecology.wordpress.com/

Lauren White is a currently a Statistician Modeler with the Covid Modeling Team at the California Department of Health. She received her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Virginia, her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota Department of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, and is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship recipient. Lauren is broadly interested in One Health- the intersection of human, animal, and environmental health- and its implications for the spread of disease. Her dissertation research in the Craft Lab characterized how three different types of heterogeneity can alter individual infectiousness in wildlife: (1) host heterogeneity: variation in host behavior and susceptibility; (2) contact heterogeneity: sociality that affects community structure within populations; and (3) spatial heterogeneity: patchiness in resource and host density across a landscape. In her spare time, Lauren enjoys yoga, hiking, ballroom dancing, and painting.

Katherine Worsley-Tonks: PhD Student    
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Katie W-T
worsl001@umn.edu

Katie completed PhD in the Veterinary Medicine program in 2020, and is now studying domestic dog rabies control in Kenya as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Smithsonian Institute. She received her MS from the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia and my BS in the School of Biological Sciences at Cardiff University. Katie is interested in ecosystem and public health research­–specifically for infectious diseases at the interface between wild and domestic animal species. She is particularly fascinated by how infectious diseases move through host populations, which individuals or species promote or reduce disease transmission, and how anthropogenic change affects these processes.  Katie for her masters examined the causes and consequences of helminth infections in Grant’s gazelle in Kenya. For her PhD, she studied disease transmission between wild and domestic carnivores in urban settings. Diseases that Katie is most interested in include canine distemper, toxoplasmosis and leptospirosis. Other than research Katie loves hiking, running, concerts, and  is becoming a big fan of snow sports since living in  Minnesota!

Marie Jones: DVM/PhD Student   
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Marie finished her DVM in 2017, and then her PhD in the Veterinary Medicine graduate program in 2021. She is now a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Wisconsin – Madison researching Chronic Wasting Disease in deer. Marie has a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University in zoology, plus experience in zoo keeping, wildlife management, and wildlife rehabilitation. Her research interests are in disease dynamics at the interface of humans, domestic animals, and wildlife interface. In her free time, Marie trains two very energetic Australian shepherds in scentwork, and practices making a mess out of her kitchen by trying new baking recipes.

Amy Kinsley: PhD Student/ Research Assistant    
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Amy Kinsley
carr0603@umn.edu

Amy completed her PhD in 2018 in the Veterinary Medicine program at the University of Minnesota. She has a DVM from the University of Minnesota and BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida. During her years of veterinary school, Amy led research opportunities investigating vector borne diseases in wildlife and livestock. Prior to her years in veterinary school, Amy consulted on a variety of land-development projects as an engineering project manager. From this work, she developed an interest in how land development influences environmental and animal health. Amy’s PhD research project was aimed at identifying the most cost-effective strategy for controlling a hypothetical FMD epidemic in North Carolina swine farms. For this study, which was primarily funded by the National Pork Board, Amy was awarded a DHS/CEEZAD fellowship.

Kim VanderWaal: Research Associate     
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Kim V
kvw@umn.edu

Kim is an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine whose research focuses on disease ecology, network analysis, and animal health. The goal of her research is to understand factors mediating pathogen transmission processes and to model the spread of animal diseases. Research areas include wildlife disease ecology, transmission processes at the wildlife-livestock interface, and network modeling of livestock diseases. Disease ecology projects have included the use of network and spatial tools to understand mechanisms of transmission in wildlife populations (giraffe, African herbivores, moose, white-tailed deer). Livestock projects include modeling the spread of bovine tuberculosis in Uruguay and modeling the spread of diseases through swine movement networks in the US (FMDv, PEDv, & PRRS). Kim is also part of a collaborative project investigating transmission dynamics of foot-and-mouth disease between African buffalo and cattle, which combines field work, molecular epidemiology, and network modeling.

Luis Escobar : Postdoc     
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Luis was a postdoc in the Craft lab from 2015-2016. He is now a research associate affiliated with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. Dr. Escobar is a veterinarian from Guatemala and earned two Master’s Degrees in wildlife management and veterinary science. He then moved to Chile where he obtained his PhD in conservation medicine at Andres Bello University in Santiago with a focus on landscape epidemiology. His research interests include macroecology and ecological niche modeling. Using climate and remote sensing data, Dr. Escobar aims to investigate areas of potential invasion of micro (disease) and macro (mammals) species. His goal is to validate tools and theory from invasion biology into disease ecology to enhance the field of spatial epidemiology. He also is assessing methods and variables for understanding of parasite co-evolution in felids in the United States ecosystems at coarse and fine geographic scales.

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Stacey Robinson: Postdoc     


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As part of the Craft lab, Stacie worked on a variety of eco-health projects, primarily climate impacts on the landscape of patterns of Lyme disease in Minnesota, and phylodynamic patterns of FIV in Serengeti lions.
Stacie is currently working as a Research Ecologist for NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, investigating population threats and interventions to aid species recovery.
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Jenny Blackburn: Postdoc     


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Jenny was a postdoctoral associate in the Craft lab from 2013 to 2014, and continues to work part-time while looking after her young son. She got her PhD in Mathematical Ecology from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland and a Masters in Mathematics from St Andrews University, Scotland. At the University of Minnesota, she used network modelling techniques to study rabies spread in raccoon populations. She also investigated the transmission of influenza virus through US swine farms, developing a model to assess the efficiency of vaccination strategies and other influenza control measures. She is currently working on estimating the force of infection of puma Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). She is using data on pumas from Florida, Colorado and California to determine the age-dependency of infection rates of FIV and the level of disease-induced mortality.

Personal website: https://sites.google.com/a/umn.edu/jennifer_reynolds/