Types of Ecology That Benefit Most From Epidemiological Data and Biology
Population ecology involves studying the impact of the environment on living beings. When the subjects being studied are pathogens capable of transmitting disease in humans, it can become harder to tell where the epidemiology ends and the ecology begins.
Viral ecology (a type of organismal ecology or microbial ecology) studies the interaction between viruses and their hosts, including humans. Many viruses are benign until they mutate and potentially harm their hosts and spread infection. An outbreak of a new viral mutation can cause regional or even worldwide devastation – as evidenced by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
Ecological studies of viruses that include data on the prevalence, incidence, and history of outbreaks for related illnesses offer more insight into all the factors that influence these mutations.
Bacterial ecology is focused on the interaction between bacteria, their hosts, and the environment. Research about illness-causing bacteria may include epidemiological data to help forecast disease spread, effects of anti-microbial resistance to population health, individuals, and more. Biology studies also play a role here as well.
Disease ecology is “the study of the underlying principles that influence the Spatio-temporal patterns .” The difference between epidemiologists is that they study what causes illness, the causes, the biology of the pathogen, and how to identify the root cause. The natural world and environment can play a large role in illness and these types of ecologists know it.
Medical ecology is an emerging science that fuses ecological science with the fields of medicine and public health. This field is incredibly valuable in today’s age when a small outbreak can turn into a global pandemic rapidly. Understanding the why’s and how’s of infections, how to diagnose and treat them, and what public health measures may be effective can help save lives.
Behavioral ecology studies how organisms evolve and adapt to changes in their habitat . The field involves learning how the behavior of the study subject is affected by nature.
For example, Pipistrellus bats have changed their behavior based on environmental and natural changes. Bats have begun living closer to humans due to deforestation and the development of fruit and vegetable farms close to human habitation .
Community ecology is the study of how a population of species in a particular area or region organizes and functions as a community. For example, an analysis of how plants, animals, and other organisms in a forest interact falls under community ecology. Examining the interaction between species in a lake is also categorized under community ecology.
Robert D. Holt and Andy Dobson discuss why it is beneficial to extend the principles of community ecology to address the epidemiology of host-pathogen systems. They make the case that most emerging sicknesses involve more than one host, and host-pathogen interactions are complex .
Soil ecology is the study of how organisms in soil interact with others and their environment. Soil scientists help us understand more about the effects of climate change, protect our health by growing our food in nutritious soil, and much more. Soil ecology also helps us protect our water bodies and learn about the impact of pollutants and pathogens in soil and water on their environment. Epidemiological data can provide insight into the types of pathogens present in a particular soil and their risk.
There are many more fields of ecology. Many of them can leverage the complementary support that epidemiology data brings. Evaluating the effects of ecology and epidemiology on diseases strengthens both fields.