What do we mean by population & ecosystem health?

The discipline of population and ecosystem health addresses the relationship between the health of ecosystems and their constituent human and animal populations.  The discipline expands the traditional definitions of health, recognising the critical links between human activity, ecological change and health.  Examples of some important issues encompassed by ecosystem health include: emerging and zoonotic diseases; infection dynamics in interface environments undergoing rapid ecological changes, and impacts of global connectivity and increasing human and animal movements. These issues relate to high-profile global diseases as well as the more neglected diseases that exert a substantial burden on the health and livelihoods of populations. Understanding the interactions between human and animal populations and their environment, as well as the impact of ecological pressures, is critical for identifying disease risks and designing appropriate measures of prevention and control.

We actually take a very broad view of what is encompassed by population and ecosystem health, recognizing the definition of population to include genes, proteins, cells, as well as individuals, and health to refer not simply to 'clinical' health, but ecological intregity, sustainability, and where appropriate - stability. The inclusive view enables us to support a wide diversity of research themes within the Centre, a membership with a broad range of skills and expertise, and the potential for considerable conceptual cross-fertilization across the different disciplines.

Close cooperation between disciplines is absolutely critical for effective research in ecosystem health.  The Boyd Orr Centre combines expertise from the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, the College of Science and Engineering and the College of Social Sciences. However the key to effective research is genuine dialogue between disciplines, and this is achieved through new collaborative research programs, joint discussion of current research, cross-institute and cross-college supervision of graduate students, and a recruitment strategy that has seen cross-appointments of veterinarians outside Veterinary Medicine and mathematicians and physicists outside Science and Engineering, but above all, it is achieved through the personalities and listening abilities of our research group.

The value of this massively interdisciplinary approach has recently been recognised by the award of the Queen's Anniversary Prize to the centre in 2013.