Boyd Orr Conference 2014

The Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health addresses the clinical and ecological health of populations and ecosystems. It is particularly committed to breaking down traditional boundaries across academia and promoting new research partnerships that have a direct and positive practical impact. On 17th and 18th July, we held a conference concentrating on two major emerging foci of our research that span the range of our interests, while demonstrating how cross-cutting themes can take strikingly different approaches. You can find a timeline of tweets about the conference using the #boydorr14 hashtag in the Storify at the bottom of this page.

Interdisciplinary approaches to disease control

Thursday 17th July

The first day concentrated on interventions to control disease from a diverse range of perspectives and experiences. Disease control has been the main concern of the centre since its inception, but it is increasingly clear that understanding the complexity of interactions among the social, political, economic, ecological, public health and veterinary domains is critical to the design of effective control strategies. This meeting brought together practitioners, policy-makers and scientists from across these disciplines to address the question: what determines the success and failure in disease control programmes?

Keynote speakers from the University of Glasgow, the UN Food & Agriculture Organization, the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and the Royal Veterinary College talked on control of ebola, rinderpest, rabies, guinea worm and foot-and-mouth disease.


Followed by a reception hosted by the Principal of the University of Glasgow and the Centre to celebrate winning the Queen's Anniversary Prize. Speeches by Anton Muscatelli (Principal of the University of Glasgow), Councillor Gordon Matheson (Leader of Glasgow City Council) and Richard Reeve (co-director of the Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health).

Interdisciplinary Diversity

Friday 18th July

The second day’s focus was on diversity, a cross-cutting theme where the centre is developing a fundamental underlying theory and which has application right across UK research council remits as well as in practice and policy. Diversity is the extent of variation in and between populations. It is found throughout biological systems and encompasses variation from the scale of the molecule to the rainforest. For example:

  • Species diversity influences the health and sustainability of ecosystems;
  • Genetic diversity is important for the health and productivity of crops and livestock;
  • Immune diversity is key to host protection from diverse and evolving pathogens;
  • Pathogen diversity informs vaccine and drug development;
  • Diversity in antimicrobial resistance is a serious clinical and drug development problem.

Its influence and therefore assessment is critical to the life sciences, and the assessment of biodiversity loss and of the impact of human activity, environment, and climate change on diversity has global policy implications. This day brought together researchers from mathematics and across the life sciences to discuss the connections between its analysis and assessment across these fields. It formed part of an ongoing series of meetings on diversity organised by the centre, which included a 5-week BBSRC and Spanish Government funded research programme on the Mathematics of Biodiversity in 2012.

Keynote speakers from the Universities of Glasgow, St Andrews and Edinburgh, the Natural History Museum, the Pirbright Institute, and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology talked on the theory of diversity analysis, and of its application in fields from biodiversity to immunogenetics and anti-microbial resistance.


Related links


The original timetable is available here.

R package for measuring diversity

We discussed the availability of an R package which provides many of the diversity measures discussed during the more mathematical talks, called entropart.

Storify of the Boyd Orr conference live-tweets

You can view the content below in its own page here.