Welcome to the disease, ecosystems, and ecology research group. Our research focuses broadly on ecology and the role of disease in communities and ecosystems. Read the snail mail blog, explore research projects, and enjoy.


Echinostoma trivolvis life cycle (illustrations by Gabriela Sincich). From Vannatta and Minchella. 2021. Food Webs.




Moving to the tenure-track

The pathogens and parasites, ecosystems and ecology lab is moving to Crown College in Minnesota in Fall 2022. Please contact me if you are interested in undergraduate research or collaborative projects!


Don’t get salty

As the climate warms, ice caps melt and sea levels rise. Rising sea levels can potentially flood coastal regions altering salinity in these areas. However, the influence of rising salinity on host-parasite interactions along the coast are not well understood. Using a common host-parasite system found in coastal regions, Schistosoma mansoni and Biomphalaria alexandrina, we show that increasing salinity is likely to decrease parasite transmission by lowering infection prevalence, host reproduction, and host survival. Interestingly, parasite larvae remained active for longer at higher salinity levels, suggesting that rising salinity could be a catastrophe for parasites, but also present some opportunities.

*Yu, A., J. T. Vannatta, S. O. Gutierrez, and D. J. Minchella. 2022. Opportunity or catastrophe? Effect of sea salt on host-parasite survival and reproduction. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 16, e0009524. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0009524.


I think they’re compensating for something

Some hosts compensate for infection by increasing reproductive output (terminal investment). We show offspring produced during this time may be just as successful as offspring from uninfected hosts. -Paper led by a Purdue undergraduate mentee!

*Davis, A. A.J. T. Vannatta, S. O. Gutierrez, and D. J. Minchella. 2021. Lack of host reproductive trade-offs associated with fecundity compensation response to parasitic castration. Journal of Helminthology. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022149X21000651



Waiter! There are worms in my ecosystem!

Read our new paper exploring how the presence of parasites within an ecosystem can influence ecosystem processes.

Vannatta, J. T. and D. J. Minchella. 2021. The influence of parasitism on producers and nutrients in mesocosm ecosystems. Food webs. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fooweb.2021.e00204



The early worm gets the snail?

Check out our new paper about priority effects in snail-trematode systems. -Paper led by a Purdue undergraduate mentee!

*Carpenter, S. A.J. T. Vannatta, and D. J. Minchella. accepted. Host exposure history and priority effects impact the development and reproduction of a dominant parasite. International Journal of Parasitology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpara.2021.03.007


Things a movin’

Trevor has officially moved to the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, studying Foot-and-Mouth Disease virus. Exciting science to come.


Parasites, cow farts, and sheep burps

In a recent collaborative project, we show the importance of considering livestock parasites and diseases in projections of global methane budgets. See the full paper here

Figure 1


Check out our new paper!

Summary: Parasites can alter the behavior of hosts to improve transmission success, but do parasites themselves make choices that improve infection success?  We investigated whether free-living parasite larvae select potential hosts based on the host’s infection status.  Our results show that parasites can detect infections in their hosts and avoid dominant competitors or, in some circumstances, invade hosts infected with weaker competitors. These behaviors have implications for parasite community structure and the evolution of host selection.

Vannatta, J. T., T. Knowles*, D. J. Minchella, and A. M. Gleichsner. 2020. The road not taken: host infection status influences parasite host-choice. Journal of Parasitology, 106, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1645/19-140



Hitting the conference circuit:

Talking about parasite behavior, coinfection, and ecosystem processes with Undergrads, grads and faculty this summer. Check out upcoming AMCOP, ASP, and ESA meetings!


A long time coming:

After 5 years, 275 livers, and over 800 parasitic worms, our data collection is finally complete from suburban white-tailed deer livers!



Gearing up for field season 2018:

Let the mesocosms begin!


Check out our new paper:

Vannatta, J. T. and D. J. Minchella. 2018. Parasites and their impact on ecosystem nutrient cycling. Trends in Parasitology 34:6 452-455