Does biodiversity reduce disease risk?

Frauke Ecke strives to understand how and why pathogens are transmitted among small mammals and from voles, mice and bats to humans.

What are your research topics?

My field of research focuses on rodent and disease ecology. I try to understand the biological and environmental factors that cause the transmission of pathogens among host species such as rodents and bats and the transmission from animals to humans.

I am especially interested in the relationship between biodiversity and disease risk. A key concept that I am studying in my work is whether biodiversity is good for our health, for example, by reducing the risk of disease.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

The still ongoing pandemic has emphasised the need to understand the drivers of pathogen transmission and to identify measures that can interrupt or at least mitigate pathogen transmission and disease risk.

There is a strong need for practical tools that can be implemented by public health authorities. Our current data-driven predictions for the outbreak of vole fever, a rodent-borne disease, are for example used by the Swedish Public Health Agency to alert the public of imminent risk.

In our most recent EU project, we are studying how nature can be restored to both maximise biodiversity and minimise the disease risk that originates from animal- and vector-borne pathogens.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

I can work with questions that have been interesting and fascinating me for many years. Translating this into societally relevant results is highly inspiring. Being a nerd finally pays off.

The complexity of the problems I am working with requires the combination of multiple research disciplines in a truly interdisciplinary way, which makes the research even more interesting.


Frauke Ecke is Professor of Ecology at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

Read about the other newly appointed professors.