University of Alberta

Dr. Lien Luong > Assistant Professor

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Room: B326, Biological Sciences
Phone: (780) 492-1818
Fax: (780) 492-9234

Current Research Interest

My research interests encompass areas of entomology, ecology, evolutionary ecology, and parasite-host interactions. I am broadly interested in the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases, including parasite transmission dynamics.

Currently my study system involves a Drosophila - ectoparasitic mite association that occurs naturally in the Sonoran desert of the American southwest. This is a highly tractable system for investigating the evolution of virulence and life history trade-offs, and by extension the evolution of parasitism itself. In general, I am interested in working on a variety of parasite-host systems, including those that involve parasitic helminths (worms).

Evolution of parasitism: Pathogenic organisms that are benign under certain conditions can suddenly become highly virulent under different circumstances. However, disease models often classify species as either parasitic or non-parasitic, even though levels of parasitism vary continuously in nature. As such, it is not well understood which factors influence the evolution of parasitism itself. I am interested in the life-history evolution of parasites that express variation in host exploitation strategies, and the selective pressures that lead to increasing pathogenic potential and disease outbreaks. Facultative parasites present a unique opportunity for addressing these questions because they operate on the margin between free-living and parasitic life styles. The free-living stages of the ectoparasitic mite (Macrocheles subbadius) feed and reproduce on highly ephemeral habitats; however, mites switch to a parasitic life-style under certain conditions, attaching to and feeding on cactophilic drosophilid hosts. The key is to understand how this process occurs and to identify the conditions that drive the evolution of infection on this continuum. 

Last Modified:2014-01-20