Foley Laboratory in Infectious Disease Ecology

Regina (Jazzy) Dingler

I graduated with a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UC Santa Cruz in 2008.  I completed my Master’s degree through the graduate group in Comparative Pathology at UC Davis.  I am especially interested in emerging wildlife infectious diseases, their population effects, and therapeutic management.  I aim to pursue a career in disease ecology and conservation medicine-themed projects.  I’ve already had the privilege of being involved with field projects in California, Alaska, Costa Rica, and the Virgin Islands, and hope to work in many other habitats throughout my career.

My thesis research contributes to the Foley Lab’s vector-borne surveillance efforts by including avian hosts, which may be reservoirs for various pathogens and spread of ticks.  My research focused on the zoonotic pathogens Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Borrelia burgdorferi, which are associated with debilitating and potentially fatal human and veterinary diseases.  I investigated the ecological role of avian hosts by quantifying bacterial (via PCR and IFA) and ectoparasite loads from wild-caught birds (using mist nets) and small mammals at Cache Creek Regional Park in Yolo county and Quail Ridge Reserve in Napa county.  In particular, I pursued the following primary areas of inquiry:

  • Reservoir potential: Birds can be naturally infected by both pathogens, and mammals can be experimentally infected with Lyme spirochetes that originate from an avian host.
  • Geographic distribution: Bird migrations may disseminate and establish new foci of tick-borne diseases.
  • Alternative vectors: Ticks are the most likely vectors to bite humans and pets.  However, both pathogens have been isolated from non-tick vectors, including mites from avian hosts.

I am thankful for the collaboration and support of the Sacramento-Yolo Vector Borne Disease District, Napa Mosquito Abatement District, UC Davis Center for Vectorborne Diseases, UCD Wildlife Health Center, UC Natural Reserve System, and all of my wonderful colleagues from the Foley Lab.