Gina Bertolacci




Research title: Understanding heterogeneity in rabies transmission

Research Summary

Current Research - Understanding heterogeneity in disease transmission

Infectious disease modelling uses a variety of approaches with extremes spanning from relatively simple mean-field modelling, where heterogenous transmission is ignored, to computationally intensive individual-based models whose individual focus sacrifices some of the generality of mean-field modelling.

My PhD research involves developing an intermediate method, by incorporating an abstraction for heterogeneous transmission into a simple branching process model, that allows individual level heterogeneity to be captured.

This method is being developed using data from dog rabies as there is a need to better understand and model heterogeneous transmission dynamics in this disease.

The model is preliminarily showing promise at being able to quickly simulate real-world outbreak dynamics. Therefore, this method provides a computationally inexpensive means to incorporate transmission heterogeneity, allowing the use of computationally expensive model fitting methods to extract hard-to-obtain parameters from data such as the mean and variance in transmission. The next stage of my research will be to carry out model fitting with the real-world rabies outbreak data.


Research Interests

My interest lies in disease ecology and the control of infectious disease through modelling of transmission. Throughout the course of my PhD I will gain a wide skillset of different modelling techniques and an understanding of their applications. My particular research focus is on rabies; however I am interested in all disease spread, especially neglected tropical diseases.



  • Funded until 30/06/2023
  • Thesis submission date 01/01/2024


  • Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases - 2022 - Delegate - Poster Presented: EEID poster pdf
  • British Ecological Society Ecology Across Borders Conference - 2021 - Online - Delegate
  • Epidemics - 8th International Conference on Infectious Disease Dynamics - 2021 - Online - Delegate
  • British Ecological Society Quantitative and Movement Ecology Conference - 2019 - Sheffield - Delegate



  • School of MVLS Demonstrator 

Additional Information

Academic Background

September 2018-September 2019: University of Glasgow, MSc in Quantitative Methods in Biodiversity, Conservation and Epidemiology - Distinction

  • Core courses: infectious disease ecology, Bayesian statistics, key research skills, spatial ecology and biodiversity, programming in R Studio, and applying ecology.
  • Thesis – “Investigating how landscape and individual attributes affect rabid dog movement and biting behaviour”

Supervisors: Prof. Katie Hampson & Dr Elaine Ferguson


September 2014-June 2018: University of Glasgow, BSc with honours of the First Class, Zoology

  • Honours courses: Disease Ecology, Advanced Statistics, Freshwater Ecology, Tropical Ecology, and Applying Ecology.
  • Honours Project- “A study of the relationship between the egg survival of ground nesting birds and the surrounding vegetation type on the Skalanes Reserve, East Iceland.” Supervisor: Dr Rudolf Nager


Journal Editorships

September 2020, Co-reviewer on paper, University of Glasgow

  • I co-reviewed a paper submission to the journal Epidemics with Professor Katie Hampson.
  • Involved a detailed assessment of the suitability of the paper for the journal and providing general feedback on the research method and format of the paper.
  • Gained a better understanding of the publication and review process and required good critical thinking and observation.


External Courses and Workshops

  • One Health Workshop - Centre for Mathematics Applied to the Life Sciences (CMALS) - Strathclyde University - 12/12/19
  • Modern Techniques for Modelling Infectious Diseases Dynamics - London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine - 10/02/2020-12/02/2020 
  • One Health Early Career Researcher Workshop - Co-hosted by National Institute of Parasitic Diseases at China CDC, University of Edinburgh, SJTU-UoE One Health Center, School of Global Health, Chinese Center for Tropical Diseases Research, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine - 09/12/21-10/12/21


Additional Relevant Experience

July-August 2018: Researcher/Data Analyst Intern, University of Glasgow

  • I created a database for a large participant study as well as carrying out participant interviews and initial data analysis.
  • Required good time management, organisation, understanding of ethical procedures for interviews, and competent data analysing skills, using R Studio.

June-July 2017: Team member, University of Glasgow Exploration Society, Iceland Expedition 2017

June-July 2016: Team member, University of Glasgow Exploration Society, Remote Scotland Expedition 2016

June-July 2015: Research Assistant, Operation Wallacea Madagascar Expedition 2015

  • My honour’s project data collection took place on the Iceland expedition – see title above.
  • During the expeditions I assissted in studies on the following topics; microplastics, sea bird cliff counts, seal behaviour, puffin behaviour, water pollution, tipulid larvae, bat transects, bird transects, and small mammal trapping.
  • Required teamwork, time management and budgeting knowledge to fundraise and plan for the expeditions, as well as learning how to write grant applications.
  • Scientific skills gained: kick sampling, colony cliff counts, small mammal trapping, invertebrate identification and preservation, nest identification and monitoring, core sampling, transect surveying, trail camera set up, and transect design.
  • On the Iceland Expedition my fellow team members documented the journey, the research carried out, and a few interesting experiences via an expedition blog.

Iceland Fieldwork:

Islay Fieldwork:


Madagascar Fieldwork: