Global changes, environmental shocks, market forces and anthropogenic disturbances from harvesting to pollution are affecting natural populations in unprecedented ways and at different time and spatial scales. We use quantitative tools (from life history-based mathematical models to statistical analysis of empirical data) to investigate factors and processes affecting the dynamics of natural and harvested populations and we intend to use this knowledge to inform practical management.
The lab is currently focused on two main research lines, the first one is the dynamics of small-scale fisheries in a changing climate (and includes impact of ocean acidification on abalone fisheries in Baja California, shark conservation biology and the simulation of the effect of marine protected areas), the second is the control and elimination of infectious diseases with an important environmental component in their transmission cycle (most notably schistosomiasis in Western Africa, but we are working also on the dynamics of diseases of marine organisms).
Ultimately, our goal is to foster interdisciplinary knowledge and skills within our lab group with the aim of contributing to solve some of the major challenges society has to face, from the sustainable harvesting of renewable resources in a changing climate, to the control of infectious diseases of public health importance.
Potential Biological Control of Schistosomiasis by Fishes in the Lower Senegal River Basin
Abstract: More than 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with schistosome parasites. Transmission of schistosomiasis occurs when people come into contact with larval schistosomes emitted from freshwater snails in the aquatic environment. Thus, controlling snails through augmenting or restoring their natural enemies, such as native predators and competitors, could offer sustainable control for this human disease. Fishes may reduce schistosomiasis transmission directly, by preying on snails or parasites, or indirectly, by competing with snails for food or by reducing availability of macrophyte habitat (i.e., aquatic plants) where snails feed and reproduce. To identify fishes that might serve as native biological control agents for schistosomiasis in the lower Senegal River basin—one of the highest transmission areas for human schistosomiasis globally—we surveyed the freshwater fish that inhabit shallow, nearshore habitats and conducted multivariate analyses with quantitative diet data for each of the fish species encountered. Ten of the 16 fish species we encountered exhibited diets that may result in direct (predation) and/or indirect (food competition and habitat removal) control of snails. Fish abundance was low, suggesting limited effects on schistosomiasis transmission by the contemporary fish community in the lower Senegal River basin in the wild. Here, we highlight some native species—such as tilapia, West African lungfish, and freshwater prawns—that could be aquacultured for local-scale biological control of schistosomiasis transmission.