Luther College Associate Professor of Biology Beth Lynch has been named as the college's Center for Ethics and Public Engagement's faculty research fellow.
The CEPE will support Lynch during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years as she conducts research on the topic of how human-caused environmental changes affect the emergence and spread of disease. Her project will culminate in the creation of a new course titled "The Ecology of Emerging Zoonotic Diseases."
The appointment of Lynch as the CEPE research fellow is the first of an on-going series of two-year appointments that will be made in this new iteration of the faculty research fellow program. The next fellow will be selected next year, and will also be awarded a two-year appointment. The center's goal is to sponsor research that directly supports the mission of the CEPE. Next year, the CEPE plans to host a series of events on science and public policy, a topic supported directly by Lynch's research.
Lynch's idea for this research began as she prepared an experimental two-credit course, "The Ecology of Emerging Infectious Diseases." She noticed that many of the students she worked with were primarily interested in human biology - rather than her area of specialty, ecology - as many of these students plan to attend medical school.
Over the course of her research, she noticed that the emergence of new infectious diseases, including Zika and West Nile, have appeared as a result of many biological factors, human and non-human. Many of these diseases infect and multiply in wildlife species, making it necessary and urgent for biologists, doctors, ecologists, epidemiologists and other specialists to have an in-depth understanding of both human and non-human biological factors that contribute to the spread of disease. It is this, Lynch says, that will help the scientific community to solve the problem presented by these infectious diseases in the future.
She plans to use the fellowship to gain a deeper understanding of the connections between human health, environmental destruction and development policies. This research will culminate in the aforementioned course, as well as contribute to cross-campus discussions about the issue.
Lynch joined the Luther faculty in 2001. She regularly teaches courses in the ecology, evolution and botany, as well as interdisciplinary courses. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Trent University in Ontario and a Doctor of Philosophy in ecology, evolution and behavior from the University of Minnesota.
A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,150, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.