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Bret Elderd

Bret Elderd

Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences

What was your previous position and where?

I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago studying disease dynamics in forest insects and human populations.

What brought you to LSU?

The opportunity to set up my own lab. This gave me the chance to investigate ecological questions that I find important and interesting. By extension, I'm able to take these ideas into the classroom to share them with undergraduate and graduate students.

What is your research interest?

I'm an ecologist who focuses on population and community dynamics. In particular, I study disease transmission in pest species of caterpillars and how disease transmission changes due to various environmental factors. To do this, I use mathematical models. The nice and amazing thing about these mathematical models is that they do a great job of describing disease outbreaks in human populations as well. Thus, I also dabble in using models to understand the spread of disease in human populations and how best to protect these populations from disease outbreaks.

What do you hope to accomplish at LSU?

I wish to establish a nationally recognized lab in disease ecology that benefits both undergraduate and graduate education.

What do you enjoy most about LSU?

I enjoy a number of things about LSU and Louisiana — the campus is particularly beautiful and the food is outstanding. I also feel lucky to be housed in the Department of Biological Sciences. My colleagues that I'm able to interact with on a day-to-day basis make this a great place to be.

What are your major accomplishments?

Today, I would say my work on smallpox disease dynamics, which is highly applicable to any number of diseases that populations face. The work centers around quantifying uncertainty in disease outbreaks. Often, when faced with any scientific question, the public wants to know "the answer" to the question at hand. My work on smallpox focused on how to quantify our uncertainty in that "answer." Varying degrees of uncertainty can have tremendous affects on public policy responses to potential outbreaks. Thus, this research showed that knowing how uncertain or certain you are about an answer is just as important as the answer itself — if not more so.


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