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Emily J. Flies 

About me

My past research has used field, laboratory, spatial and statistical analyses to understand patterns of disease in humans and animals. My work for DEEP uses similar techniques to reveal the impact of human civilization on human and environmental health. I hope my DEEP lab work can inform policies and practices that lead to a healthier and more sustainable world. Outside of work, I manage a science engagement non-profit and love running, especially after my two young boys.

Key interests

  • health

  • biodiversity

  • urban

  • microbiome

  • disease ecology

  • vector-borne

  • zoonotic

Students I supervise

  • Gabriella Allegretto (Honours)

  • Tom Keen (PhD)

Current research with D.E.E.P

How urbanization and anthropogenic land use change impacts environmental and human health

Research aims: a) Determine how urbanization impacts the health of humans and the environment, b) elucidate the mechanisms driving human disease in cities, c) translate this knowledge into guidelines for building healthier cities that can mitigate the negative impact of humans on the health of humans and the environment.

My research history

I have taken a meandering route to my current position of postdoctoral research fellow. My undergraduate (Bachelor of Arts) degree was in anthropology and psychology from the University of Buffalo, USA. I then spent a few years teaching outdoor education to middle-school students from Long Island and New York City and then studying, working and travelling in Central and South America. During these formative years, I became interested in how the environment impacts the way that zoonotic diseases are transmitted between humans and animals. Working as a research assistant in Bolivia also reignited my passion for research and in 2008, I began a research degree in “Disease Ecology and Conservation Medicine” at Michigan State University (USA). My master’s thesis explored whether certain bird species can become infected with and transmit a tick-borne bacteria (similar to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) and whether infection makes the birds sick. During my research, I became more interested in the connections between human, animal and environmental health (One Health/EcoHealth/Planetary Health).

After completing my master’s degree, I moved to Adelaide, AU to conduct my PhD at the University of South Australia, in the Healthy Environments, Healthy People Research Group. My PhD research explored how social and ecological factors impact transmission of mosquito-borne infections in South Australia. As part of that project, I developed a novel mosquito-borne virus detection technique that puts nucleic acid-preserving paper coated in honey into mosquito trap made of pantyhose, paperclip and recycled milk cartons. With those special traps, I sampled over 100 field sites four times throughout the spring/summer and detected three different viruses in the mosquitoes of South Australia. Through innovative spatial analyses, I was able to identify the social and environmental factors associated with higher rates of human infection with Ross River virus, which has the potential to become an emerging infectious disease.

While completing my PhD, I worked as a Research Associate at the University of Adelaide as part of the Healthy Urban Microbiomes Initiative. With this research, I investigated the connections between urban green space, human health and human exposure to diverse microbiomes.

My current postdoctoral position is at the University of Tasmania in the Dynamics of Eco-Evolutionary Patterns lab directed by Prof. Barry Brook. In this lab, I am applying my spatial and statistical analysis skills to topics of global concern. My main interest is in urban health; what diseases are associated with urban living and why. I am also interested in global food demand (which has a tremendous impact on the environment) and disease ecology.

I am passionate about improving public understanding of and engagement with science through better science communication. In 2014, during my PhD, my partner Dr Andy Flies and I co-founded Science in the Pub Adelaide (SciPubAdelaide.org.au) and, since moving to Hobart in 2015, Science in the Pub Tasmania (SciPubTas.org.au). These two ongoing, non-profit organizations each bring a panel of 3 engaging, knowledgeable scientists into a pub to discuss a scientific topic with each other and the attendees.

We average ~75-100 audience members at each monthly event. We have acquired grants and sponsorship to provide free hot nibbles for the audience and free drinks for the panel and we conduct a raffle each month to make the events self-sustaining. We learn a lot and have a great time at each event and consistently get feedback from the audience (through our monthly survey) that they do too.

My dedication to science communication and engagement has recently been acknowledged with several awards including being named the 2017 STEM Communicator of the Year for Tasmania.

Funding & Collaborators

2019 Australian Microbiome Initiative 

for “Public versus private urban green space: the impact of land tenure and use-intensity on soil microbiomes” ($22,500, in collaboration with University of Melbourne)

 

- Collaborators: Dr Penelope Jones (UTas), Dr Suzanne Mavoa (UniMelb), Dr Amy Hahs (UniMelb)

2019 UTas Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research grant

for “Understanding the effects of an inner-city student accommodation community garden project in

Hobart: Melville St Community Garden Project @the Hobart City Apartments” ($50,000)

- Collaborators: Dr Pauline Marsh; Dr Dave Kendal; Dr Penelope Jones; Dr Ceridwen Owen; Professor JA Byrne

2019 Research Enhancement Program Grant

for “Healthy Future Environments and People Consortium”, College of Science and Engineering ($233,172)

 

- Collaborators: Dr Pauline Marsh; Dr Dave Kendal; Dr Penelope Jones; Dr Laurence Clarke; Dr Stefania Ondei

2019 Research Enhancement Program Grant

for “Human health and the aerial microbiome: uncovering interactions across Australia”, College of Health and Medicine ($19989)

-Collaborators: Dr Penelope Jones; AssocProf Fay Johnston; Professor Joanne Dickinson

 

2018 Research Enhancement Program Workshop Grant

for “Microbiomes in Tasmania Workshop: questions, collaboration and connection with industry”, College of Sciences and Engineering ($7500)

 

- Collaborators: Dr Laurence Clarke; Dr Dave Kendal

2018 Research Enhancement Program Project Grant

for “Anthropogenic impacts on environmental microbiomes”, College of Sciences and Engineering ($9984)

- Collaborators: Dr Laurence Clarke; Dr Stefania Ondei; Dr Penelope Jones

Publications

Flies, E. J., Mavoa, S., Zosky, G. R., Mantzioris, E., Williams, C., Eri, R., Brook, B. W. & Buettel, J. C. (2019). Urban-associated diseases: Candidate diseases, environmental risk factors, and a path forward. Environment International 

doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2019.105187

Lai, H., Flies, E. J., Weinstein, P. & Woodward, A. (2019). The impact of green space and biodiversity on health. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 

https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2077 

Stephenson, E.; Webb, C; Flies, E.J. “How Australian wildlife spread and suppress Ross River virus”. The Conversation. published online January 15, 2019

Flies, E.J. , Skelly, C., Lovell, R., Breed, M.F., Philips, D., & Weinstein, P. (2018) Cities, biodiversity, and health: We need healthy urban microbiome initiatives. Cities and Health. https://doi.org/10.1080/23748834.2018.1546641

Buettel, J.C.; Brook, B.W.; Cole, A.; Dickey, J.; Flies, E.J. (2018) Astro-ecology? Shifting the interdisciplinary collaboration paradigm. Ecology and Evolution.  

https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4455

Flies, E.J., Brook, B.W., Blomqvist, L. & Buettel, J.C. (2018) Future global food demand and model complexity: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environment International. 120: 93-103. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2018.07.019

Flies, E.J. (2018) Impacts of Climate Change on Allergens and Allergic Diseases edited by Paul J. Beggs. Quarterly Review of Biology 93(2): 131. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/698031

Flies, E.J., Lau, C., Carver., & Weinstein, P. (2018) Another Emerging Mosquito-Borne Disease? Endemic Ross River Virus Transmission in the Absence of Marsupial Reservoirs. BioScience. DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biy011

Flies, E.J., Weinstein, P., et al (2017) Biodiverse green spaces: a prescription for global urban health. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 15(9): 510-516. DOI: 10.1002/fee.1630.

Flies, E.J., Weinstein, P., et al (2017) Ross River Virus and the Necessity of Multiscale, Eco-epidemiological Analyses. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. DOI:  10.1093/infdis/jix615

Flies, E.J. & Webb, C. (2016) Explainer: what are antibodies and why are viruses like dengue worse the second time? The Conversation. November 7, 2016.

Flies, E. J., Williams, C. R., et al (2016) Improving public health intervention for mosquito-borne disease: the value of geovisualization using source of infection and LandScan data. Epidemiology and Infection 144(14): 3108-3119. DOI: 10.1017/S0950268816001357

Flies, E.J., Flies, A., et al. (2016) Regional comparison of mosquito bloodmeals in South Australia: implications for Ross River virus ecology. Journal of Medical Entomology 53(1): 902–910. DOI: 10.1093/jme/tjw035

Flies, A.; Mansfield, L; Flies, E.J., et al (2016) Socioecological predictors of immune defenses in a wild spotted hyenas. Functional Ecology 30(9): 1549-1557. DOI:  10.1111/1365-2435.12638

Williams, C. & Flies, E.J. (2015) How a new test is revolutionising what we know about viruses in our midst. The Conversation. August 19, 2015.

Flies, E.J., Toi , Cheryl, et al. (2015). Converting Mosquito Surveillance to Arbovirus Surveillance with Honey-Baited Nucleic Acid Preservation Cards. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 15(7): 397-403. DOI: 10.1089/vbz.2014.1759

Johnston, E.*, P. Weinstein, et al. (2014). Mosquito communities with trap height and urban-rural gradient in Adelaide, South Australia: implications for disease vector surveillance. Journal of Vector Ecology 39(1): 48-55. DOI: 10.1111/j.1948-7134.2014.12069.x

Johnston, E.*, J. I. Tsao, et al. (2013). Anaplasma phagocytophilum Infection in American Robins and Gray Catbirds: An Assessment of Reservoir Competence and Disease in Captive Wildlife. Journal of Medical Entomology  50(1): 163-170. DOI:  10.1603/ME12141

*Maiden name

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