Recap from the 2018 VectorBiTE workshop

VectorBiTE: Vector Behavior in Transmission Ecology by the Quantitative Ecological Dynamics Lab


The Quantitative Ecological Dynamics Lab, led by Leah Johnson, just wrapped up a third VectorBiTE workshop at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, CA. The VectorBiTE project is a Research Coordination Network that seeks to build a collaborative network of interdisciplinary researchers to investigate the effect of vector behavior and life history on transmission dynamics. More about the goals and the organizing team can be found at

As it has become well known, disease dynamics are sensitive to climate change. Vectors, usually small bodied ectotherms, change their behavior and life histories according to changes in temperature, precipitation, and humidity. This contributes to variation in transmission of vector-borne diseases (VBDs) leading to environmentally mediated outbreaks. As a result, it is crucial to consider climate factors, both in theory and practice, when studying disease dynamics. Our first two VectorBiTE meetings successfully brought empiricists and theoreticians together to discuss what we know and what don’t, and to begin to identify the most pressing questions to address to improve our understanding of climate impacts on VBDs. So far there have been two systematic reviews published by VectorBiTE working groups, and further reviews and research papers are planned.

This year’s meeting consisted of two portions: a training session on quantitative tools for VBDs and an open session aimed at providing time for working groups to form and meet. In the training session, the goal was to teach participants (grad students and postdocs) quantitative tools that can be used to solve previously generated questions. Instructors for the workshop included researchers from Virginia Tech, Imperial College London, and Stanford, specifically:

Leah Johnson, GCC Faculty at Virginia Tech
Samraat Pawar, Faculty at Imperial College London
Fadoua El Moustaid, Ph.D. Candidate and IGC Fellow at Virginia Tech
Marta Shocket, Postdoc at Stanford University
Matt Watts, Ph.D. student at Imperial College London

VectorBiTE 2018 training session participants

We covered an introduction to data management, visualization, and fitting models to data. We then explored how to use these tools for data on VBDs. For instance, we showed participants how to fit trait data to mechanistic and statistical models and how to fit population dynamics models to data taken from Vectorbyte‘s VecDyn database ( VecDyn is one of two databases being constructed by the VectorBiTE team. All of the training materials (including lecture slides, exercises, and examples) are freely available through the VectorBiTE GitHub repository.

The open session started off with group leaders for the 7 working groups presenting an overview of their proposed projects. The working groups divided up to tackle their problems. They reported back on their progress before wrapping up. More about current and previous working group projects can be found at

Participants from the VectorBiTE 2018 open session for working groups


Related: Virginia Tech researchers collaborate with global scientists to study vector behavior and disease transmission