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Cornell University

Katherine McClure

Postdoctoral Fellow in Disease Ecology

Katherine McClure is a disease ecologist interested in applying quantitative methods to better understand and control infectious diseases. Katherine received her BS in Ecology at the University of Texas in her hometown of Austin, Texas. She worked for three years as a field biologist on the Biocomplexity of Avian Disease Project on the Big Island of Hawaii, where she became passionate about native Hawaiian bird conservation and deeply fascinated by avian malaria, a mosquito-borne disease responsible for species extinctions and population declines in native birds. She received her Master’s at the University of Colorado Boulder in Sharon Collinge’s lab studying landscape effects on sylvatic plague occurrence in black-tailed prairie dog colonies in Colorado. She obtained her PhD from the University of California Santa Cruz in Marm Kilpatrick’s lab, where she used field, lab, and quantitative methods to investigate the drivers of avian malaria transmission and impacts on native birds in lowland Hawaii. As a postdoctoral researcher at the USDA-APHIS National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colorado, Katherine developed spatially-explicit individual-based models of raccoon movement, host-host contact, and oral-baited rabies vaccine exposure to improve rabies vaccination baiting strategies for raccoons, a key wildlife reservoir of rabies and target of a wildlife vaccination program in the U.S.

In fall 2019, Katherine joined the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine as an Atkinson Center Postdoctoral Fellow in Sustainability. She will join a partnership between the American Bird Conservancy and federal partners at the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to advance an evidence-based Incompatible Insect Technique (IIT) vector control program in Hawaii. This landscape-level mosquito control program will involve the release of Wolbachia–transinfected southern house mosquitoes, Culex quinquefasciatus, into strategically selected native bird habitat to suppress mosquito populations and reduce avian malaria transmission. Katherine will work with Steven Osofsky, Jay Hyman Professor of Wildlife Health and Health Policy at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Atkinson Faculty Fellow, and program partners, to develop models of mosquito population and avian malaria transmission dynamics to estimate optimal IIT release parameters and to create a framework for evaluating program success. She will conduct targeted mosquito field experiments to better inform release parameters, and will participate in the design and implementation of efficacy field trials. Landscape-level vector suppression is urgently needed to prevent the extinction of more than a dozen native Hawaiian bird species and to preserve a unique biological and cultural resource that helps to shape Hawaiian identity and supports human well-being. Her research on the control of alien invasive mosquito species also has important implications for public health.