Research interests

Evolution results from the interplay between multiple forces acting on populations (natural selection, genetic drift, mutation, migration, sex...). These evolutionary forces are shaped by ecological conditions, which may vary both in space and time. In turn, evolution may affect the demography and the environment of populations. Taking into account this feedback between evolution and ecology is key to a full understanding of the dynamics of adaptation. This is particularly relevant in an epidemiological context, where the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases is an ever increasing source of concern. We work at the interface between different research areas that have often been developed independently. In particular, we try to tie together theoretical, experimental and empirical perspectives.

Theory

The framework of evolutionary epidemiology aims at a more comprehensive view of the dynamics of infectious diseases through the integration of different theoretical perspectives, such as theoretical population genetics, mathematical epidemiology and life history theory. This provides new insights on the evolution of parasite virulence, host resistance and host-parasite coevolution. From an applied standpoint, this synthetic approach could contribute to the improvement of public-health interventions, for instance by providing guidelines for the development and use of vaccination and therapeutic drugs. We are currently working on extending this theoretical framework in several new directions to take into account spatial dynamics, multilocus genetics, and stochasticity. Our research interests are not limited to the field of host-parasite interactions. More generally, we are interested in the evolution and demography of populations in spatially and temporally variable environments. This raises several questions of broad interest in evolutionary biology on dispersal, local adaptation, and the evolution of social traits.

Biological models

Bacteriophages

We use various bacteriophages of E. coli to study the evolutionary dynamics of these viruses under different scenarios of environmental heterogeneity and to test theoretical predictions on the evolution of various life history traits (virulence, latency, superinfection). We also want to test the predictions issued from models on the dynamics of adaptation in variable environments. In addition, we are measuring patterns of adaptation across space and time using natural samples of viral and bacterial communities sampled in different sites in the lagoons around Montpellier.

Avian malaria

We study the evolutionary ecology of avian malaria in the lab and in the field. We are interested in various aspects of the interaction between the host (passerine birds), the parasite (Plasmodium relictum), and its vector (the mosquito Culex pipiens). We are currently examining the potential influence of insecticide resistance on the transmission of malaria. Our experimental system allows us to test some of the predictions on the evolution of several life-history traits, such as host manipulation by the parasite. We are studying the ability of Plasmodium to manipulate behavioural traits of its Culex vector at different stages of the Plasmodium life cycle.