I'm Ana Bento
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Odum School of Ecology & Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases University of Georgia
I'm a population biologist with a focus on ecology and evolution of infectious diseases. I earned my Ph.D. in Ecology & Evolution at Silwood Park, Imperial College London advised by Prof. Mick Crawley. After a MRC postdoctoral fellowship with Prof. Christl Donnelly, at Imperial College, Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Department, I accepted a postdoctoral position at the Odum School of Ecology, UGA, to work with Prof. Pejman Rohani on the ecology & evolution of vaccine preventable childhood diseases.
I'm fascinated by trying to understand the frequency, magnitude and shape of seasonal disease dynamics and the effects of population heterogeneity. Primarily, identifying evolutionary, ecological and demographic drivers of (re -) emergence and seasonality of infectious disease systems, with the aim of informing vaccination and other control public health policies. Scaling up individual-level interactions to understand the population-level outcomes (e.g., the evolution of virulence or immune evasion).
My research focuses on the ecology of infectious diseases in humans and other animals. My research agenda seeks to understand the dynamics of biological populations and epidemics, focusing on how to bring experimental and observational data together with mathematical theory. The majority of my body of work has been on vaccine preventable diseases dynamics, with a view to understanding fundamental processes in ecology and evolution. My ongoing research falls into the following themes: (i) pathogen evolution and phylodynamics; (ii) seasonal disease transmission; (iii) maternal immunization; (iv) anthropogenic effects (e.g. vaccines).
My approach is to use theoretical models to understand how human and other animal systems behave generally, while simultaneously seeking to confront and validate models with data and make predictions. I use a combination of mathematical modelling, phylodynamics approaches and cutting-edge statistical inference techniques. With these methods I am able to make quantitative, testable predictions and confront process-based models with data. This is the central premise of my research program and the common thread of my work.
A selection of projects I'm involved in much of my current research is based on understanding long-term data on spatio-temporal incidence patterns of microparasitic infections such as pertussis, measles and bovine tuberculosis. In my work, I formalize scientific hypotheses as mathematical models to make precise predictions and powerful inference.
Bacterial Evolution & immune evasion
Despite high routine vaccination coverage, pertussis has become the most prevalent vaccine-preventable disease in many countries, since the 1990s. While a plethora of candidate explanations for this resurgence remain hotly debated, two main ideas focus on vaccine driven bacterial adaptation and on the change from whole cell to acellular vaccines. We employ generalized linear models within a Bayesian coalescent framework to formally tests drivers of evolution in Bordetella pertussis populations, and the role of allele shifts in the resurgence of pertussis.
Herd immunity erosion: source and sink dynamics
Vaccine hesitancy poses a clear barrier to covering the last mile in global disease eradication efforts for VPDs such as measles and pertussis. In this ongoing project we aim to characterize disease dynamics and vaccine coverage, estimate the epidemiological impact of vaccine hesitancy, and identify the spatial scale of herd immunity.
Vaccine waning immunity
Formulation of mathematical models to confront them with age stratified incidence data to learn about the mechanisms that operate in the dynamics of infectious diseases and the consequences of vaccination policies. Currently, I'm using England & Wales and particular states in the US incidence times series of pertussis for different vaccine eras.
Impact of maternal vaccination
The historical pertussis literature indicates that maternal vaccination may potentially lead to a reduction in the efficacy of routine infant immunization. We studied the possible downstream consequences of maternal immunization.
Evolution of antiviral resistance
Computationally test the hypothesis that increased HA binding avidity is associated with increased rates of Oseltamivir resistance.
Within herd dynamics
Epidemiological impact of control & immunisation activities on within-herd bovine tuberculosis outbreaks
In collaboration with Christl Donnelly
Environmental drivers of plant-herbivore dynamics
In temperate regions the seasonal pattern of plant productivity and senescence is influenced strongly by the prevailing weather. For herbivores the onset of spring is particularly important for survival and growth, while subsequent plant production will potentially influence lactation and recovery of body mass before the next breeding season.
Epidemiological impact of control and immunisation activities on within-herd bovine tuberculosis outbreaks
Bento & Donnelly. 2019. Forthcoming in Scientific Reports
B. pertussis epidemiology, transmission & evolution in the vaccine era
Bento, King, Taujale, Bosch & Rohani. in review (available upon request)
Feeding the disparities: the geography and trends of breastfeeding in the United States
Garnier, Bento et al. in review (available upon request)
Climatic effects of plant productivity and herbivore performance in St Kilda
Bento et al. in review (available upon request)
Won't you be my neighbor?
Bento, Omer, Haran, Rohani & Bansal ( in prep available upon request)
Warming and vegetation community dynamics in a wild red deer population
Bento et al. nearing submission (available upon request)
Spring temperature and rain mediate summer growth in the Park Grass experiment
Bento et al. nearing submission (available upon request)
Teaching & Mentoring
I have been fortunate to create and teach a variety of classes and mentor several outstanding undergraduate and MSc. and Ph.D. students.
Three unifying principles guide my teaching and mentoring approach:
(i) combining foundational principles with practical application
(ii) guided active learning
(iii) quantitative reasoning
These are some courses I have designed and or taught:
Introduction to machine learning with R - applied to ecological problems (2019 @ Odum School of Ecology)
Computational Modeling ECOL 8540 - applied to infectious disease systems (May 2018 @ IDEAS, UGA)
Introduction to modelling
Introduction to modelling with R - apply population models (2017 @ Odum School of Ecology)
R ladies Athens
R Ladies group in Athens GA. ALL #R welcome
Introduction to Mathematical Models Epidemiology and Control of Infectious Diseases (2013-2014 @ Infectious Disease Epi. Dept Imperial)
Generalised Linear Modeling in R
Statistics and Computing in R for Ecologists (2009-2012 @ Silwood Park Imperial)