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Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld

Disease Ecologist | PhD, 1985, University of California, Berkeley

Expertise: disease ecology, Lyme disease, West Nile virus

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Richard Ostfeld studies the ecology of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases such as Powassan viral encephalitis, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis. By understanding the factors that influence tick abundance and infection, Ostfeld and his team can predict when and where exposure to tick-borne diseases will be high.

Ostfeld and his Bard College collaborator Felicia Keesing direct The Tick Project – a five-year study that is testing two tick control methods in residential neighborhoods throughout Dutchess County, NY. The goal: devise an effective approach to controlling tick-borne diseases that could be adopted by local municipalities, community groups, and neighborhoods. Changing climatic conditions can affect tick survival and reproduction.

Ostfeld studies the effects of environmental variables on tick survival, behavior, and population performance to predict where Lyme disease will spread as climate warms. Ostfeld’s team is also investigating the communities of viruses that live within blacklegged ticks and an important host, the white-footed mouse. They are determining what viruses ticks and mice carry, the mechanisms by which these viruses are transmitted, and whether they could cause illness in humans.

Ostfeld has studied the relationship between land use and infectious disease for over 20 years. Development of forested areas can degrade or fragment wildlife habitat, causing species diversity to decline. Predators like foxes and owls, which feed on mice, are sensitive to fragmentation. The loss of predators can lead to more mice and fewer non-mouse hosts for ticks, increasing the abundance of Lyme-infected ticks and disease risk for humans.

Landesman, W.J., Kenneth Mulder, B. F. Allan, Laura Bashor, Felicia Keesing, Kathleen M. LoGiudice, and Richard S. Ostfeld. 2019. “Potential Effects Of Blood Meal Host On Bacterial Community Composition In Ixodes Scapularis Nymphs”. Ticks And Tick-Borne Diseases 10 (3): 523 - 527. doi:10.1016/j.ttbdis.2019.01.002.
Mowry, Stacy, Felicia Keesing, Ilya R. Fischhoff, and Richard S. Ostfeld. 2019. “Predicting Larval Tick Burden On White-Footed Mice With An Artificial Neural Network”. Ecological Informatics 52: 150 - 158. doi:10.1016/j.ecoinf.2019.04.002.
Emmering, Quinn C., Janice K. Kelly, Richard S. Ostfeld, and Kenneth Schmidt. 2018. “Variation In Coexisting Birds To Exploit Spatial Heterogeneity In Small Mammal Activity”. Journal Of Avian Biology 49 (12). doi:10.1111/jav.01946.
Keesing, Felicia, Richard S. Ostfeld, T.P. Young, and B. F. Allan. 2018. “Cattle And Rainfall Affect Tick Abundance In Central Kenya”. Parasitology 145 (3): 345 - 354. doi:10.1017/S003118201700155X.
Ostfeld, Richard S., Dustin Brisson, K. Oggenfuss, Jill Devine, Michael Z. Levy, and Felicia Keesing. 2018. “Effects Of A Zoonotic Pathogen, Borrelia Burgdorferi, On The Behavior Of A Key Reservoir Host”. Ecology And Evolution: 4074 - 4083. doi:10.1002/ece3.3961.
Keesing, Felicia, and Richard S. Ostfeld. 2018. “The Tick Project: Testing Environmental Methods Of Preventing Tick-Borne Diseases”. Trends In Parasitology 34 (6): 447 - 450. doi:10.1016/j.pt.2018.02.008.
Ostfeld, Richard S., Taal Levi, Felicia Keesing, K. Oggenfuss, and Charles D. Canham. 2018. “Tick-Borne Disease Risk In A Forest Food Web”. Ecology 99 (7): 1562 - 1573. doi:10.1002/ecy.2386.
Fischhoff, Ilya R., J. C. Burtis, Felicia Keesing, and Richard S. Ostfeld. 2018. “Tritrophic Interactions Between A Fungal Pathogen, A Spider Predator, And The Blacklegged Tick”. Ecology And Evolution 8 (16): 7824 - 7834. doi:10.1002/ece3.4271.
Allan, B. F., Heather Tallis, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Steven Huckett, Virginia A. Kowal, Jessica Musengezi, Sharon Okanga, et al. 2017. “Can Integrating Wildlife And Livestock Enhance Ecosystem Services In Central Kenya?”. Frontiers In Ecology And The Environment 15 (6): 328 - 335. doi:10.1002/fee.1501.
Ostfeld, Richard S., and Alison G. Power. 2017. The Year In Ecology And Conservation Biology. Annals Of The New York Academy Of Sciences. Vol. 1399. Wiley. doi:10.1111/nyas.13243.
Vuong, Holly, Grace S. Chiu, Peter E. Smouse, Dina M. Fonseca, Dustin Brisson, Peter J. Morin, and Richard S. Ostfeld. 2017. “Influences Of Host Community Characteristics On Borrelia Burgdorferi Infection Prevalence In Blacklegged Ticks”. Plos One 12 (1): e0167810. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0167810.
Kelly, Janice K., Kenneth Schmidt, and Richard S. Ostfeld. 2017. “Not All Nesting Guild Members Are Alike: Nest Predators And Conspecific Abundance Differentially Influence Nest Survival In The Ground-Nesting Ovenbird (Seiurus Aurocapilla) And Veery (Catharus Fuscescens) )”. The Wilson Journal Of Ornithology 129 (1): 112 - 121. doi:10.1676/1559-4491-129.1.112.
Fischhoff, Ilya R., Felicia Keesing, and Richard S. Ostfeld. 2017. “The Tick Biocontrol Agent Metarhizium Brunneum (= M. Anisopliae) (Strain F52) Does Not Reduce Non-Target Arthropods”. Plos One 12 (11): e0187675. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0187675.
Ostfeld, Richard S. 2017. “Zoonoses: Infectious Diseases Transmissible Between Animals And Humans”. The Quarterly Review Of Biology. doi:10.1086/693651.
Robertson, Bruce A., Richard S. Ostfeld, and Felicia Keesing. 2017. “Trojan Females And Judas Goats: Evolutionary Traps As Tools In Wildlife Management”. Bioscience 67 (11): 983 - 994. doi:10.1093/biosci/bix116.
Ostfeld, Richard S., and Felicia Keesing. 2017. “Is Biodiversity Bad For Your Health?”. Ecosphere 8 (3): e01676. doi:10.1002/ecs2.1676.
Ostfeld, Richard S. 2017. “Biodiversity Loss And The Ecology Of Infectious Disease”. The Lancet Planetary Health 1 (1): e2 - e3. doi:10.1016/S2542-5196(17)30010-4.
Manore, Carrie, Richard S. Ostfeld, F. Agusto, H. Gaff, and Shannon L. LaDeau. 2016. “Defining The Risk Of Zika And Chikungunya Virus Transmission In Human Population Centers Of The Eastern United States”. doi:10.1101/061382.
Levi, Taal, Aimee L. Massey, R.D. Holt, Felicia Keesing, Richard S. Ostfeld, and Carlos A. Peres. 2016. “Does Biodiversity Protect Humans Against Infectious Disease? Comment”. Ecology 97. WILEY-BLACKWELL: 536-542. doi:10.1890/15-354.1.
Burtis, J. C., Patrick Sullivan, Taal Levi, K. Oggenfuss, Timothy J. Fahey, and Richard S. Ostfeld. 2016. “The Impact Of Temperature And Precipitation On Blacklegged Tick Activity And Lyme Disease Incidence In Endemic And Emerging Regions”. Parasites & Vectors 9 (16). doi:10.1186/s13071-016-1894-6.

Current Projects


Books


ecology of lyme disease

Lyme Disease: The Ecology of a Complex System
Oxford University Press, 2011

Infectious Disease Ecology: Effects of Ecosystems on Disease and of Disease on Ecosystems
Princeton University Press, 2008