About me
I am a PhD candidate in the Martin Lab at the University of South Florida broadly interested in the cost of immunity and drivers of variation in immune function within and among populations. 

Specifically, my current research focuses on variation in the cost of immunity and how variation may drive disease dynamics, especially in ecosystems affected by introduced species.  Variation in pathogen defense strategies exists within and among populations, and is likely driven by multiple factors such as pathogen virulence, environmental conditions and host characteristics.  In order to fully understand how pathogens move through ecosystems and affect host health, it is necessary to understand factors that affect pathogen characteristics, such as variations in host immune defense and the factors influencing those variations. 

Of particular importance to hosts is resource availability since immune responses can be nutritionally expensive.  Previous work has shown that immune system activation is often coupled with decreases in other important processes. Thus far, the cost of immune activation in terms of nutrients has yet to be quantified.  By quantifying cost, we can begin to understand the mechanisms underlying defense strategy variation and in turn how these variations affect disease dynamics (e.g., transmission and virulence) within ecosystems.

Florida is now home to many invasive reptiles, one of the most prevalent being my study species, the brown anole (Anolis sagrei), which many people don't realize is invasive here.  This species of anole is native to Cuba and the Bahamas, but is now widespread across Florida where it has displaced the native green anole.  It has also expanded its range into Georgia, is present in several locations in Texas and has
even made its way to Hawaii.  

My research aims to address if a measurable cost of immune function exists across taxa, and what factors are strong drivers of immune variations. 

brown anole
Thanks to everyone who contributed to my RocketHub campaign and helped to fund my research this summer! A poster on this research was presented at the annual Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting in Austin, TX in January 2014 and a manuscript is now in review.

   Follow me on Twitter @OffbeatScience

Contact me: abrace@mail.usf.edu