Dr. Jonathan Davies is a Professor in the Departments of Botany and Forest & Conservation Sciences at UBC. Jonathan studies how diseases move between different host species, and what lies behind an increasing rate in the emergence of new diseases.

So recently we've all been watching the news and seeing the emergence of diseases and people spilling over from Wildlife obviously we've all heard about covid and now monkeypox more recently. The same process has been going on in plants and so diseases of natural plants are spilling over into domesticated agricultural species. I'm trying to understand what are the processes of driving that spillover. My name is Jonathan Davis I'm a professor in the department of Botany, Forest and conservation Sciences.

My research uses information on the evolution history of species to understand their present-day ecologies. One of my current interests is understanding the distribution of plant pests and pathogens. I actually started exploring these questions looking at the distribution and patterns of diseases in primates and there's a really interesting relationship in that closer related species often shared similar diseases and pathogens. I was trying to explore the underlying processes which might drive those patterns.

We're finding these lots of these strong correlations with an evolutionary explanation that the probability of of a disease spilling over to a novel host can be predicted by how closely related is from the reservoir host. We can think about this again if we could think about primates and diseases we might be familiar with, for example HIV. That likely spilled over from chimpanzees as a simian version of HIV, SIV and emerged in people as HIV the human version. Chimpanzees are our closest living relative and maybe these same processes, thinking about the evolution history of species, can help us understand how these diseases are emerging in people, Wildlife, domesticated animals, and our crops.

There are several major examples of trees and plants that have been hit very severely by emerging diseases. In Europe we can think of Dutch elm disease. In fact that also emerged as a serious threat to elm trees in the U.S and that's caused by a fungal pathogen that likely originates in Asia. It spilled over to European and North American elm trees with devastating impacts. What we're seeing recently is that the frequency of these new diseases these emerging diseases is increasing through time and we're trying to find what are the drivers of that what explains that increasing frequency of disease outbreaks.

One of our hypotheses is that the global changes we're experiencing today through changes to the climate, the loss of biodiversity, changes in the distribution and abundance of species is altering disease Dynamics and so some of our work going forward is trying to link together these big global change drivers. Climate change, biodiversity change and disease outbreaks.


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