Epidemiology is the study of the causes, distribution, and control of disease in populations. One of the most intriguing results to emerge from epidemiology in recent years is the extent to which the structure of social networks influences both the dynamics of disease outbreaks and the potential for disease control.
Although the impact of social network structure is now widely appreciated, the underlying mechanisms of social network self-organization are poorly understood. This working group will use wild primates as a model system for exploring the mechanisms of disease network self-organization. Field primatologists, quantitative ecologists, and wildlife epidemiologists will use behavioral and ecological data to build models of social network self-organization in gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys.
Disease has recently joined poaching and habitat loss as one of the major threats to tropical wildlife and a primary working group objective will be to use to our models to find efficient strategies for vaccinating wild primates. A particular emphasis will be placed on optimal vaccination in protected areas and on efficiently vaccinating against Ebola virus, which has killed about one third of the gorillas in protected areas over the last 15 years.