Dr. Kevin Lafferty's main interest lies in how parasites affect ecosystems and, in turn, how ecosystems affect parasites. He is also involved in research on the conservation of marine resources, investigating strategies for protecting endangered shorebirds, fish and abalone. He has also assessed the effects of marine reserves.
Dr. Lafferty received his Ph. D. in Ecological Parasitology in 1991 at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and took a post doc with the National Marine Sanctuary and a research position at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is presently a Marine Ecologist for the USGS at the Channel Islands Field Station. As a UCSB adjunct faculty member, the university's Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology generously provides for Dr. Lafferty's office and laboratory space in the Marine Lab. He advises graduate students in Marine Ecology, but has no formal teaching assignments.
- Conservation biology
- Invasive species ecology
- Nearshore marine ecology
- Parasite ecology
- Wetland ecology
- Ph.D., Ecology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 1991
- M.A., Zoology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 1988
- B.A., Aquatic Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 1985
PROFESSIONAL AND HONORARY SOCIETIES AND SCIENCE ADVISORY COMMITTEES
- Amercian Society of Parasitologists
- American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
- California Botanical Society
- Ecological Society of America
- Natural Areas Association
- Western Society of Naturalists
- Marine Ecologist, USGS, Western Ecological Science Center, Jul 1998-Present
- Assistant Adj. Prof., UCSB, Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, Jul 1998-Present
- Assist. Research Biologist, UCSB Marine Science Institute, Jun 1996-Jul 1998
- Assist. Research Biologist, UCLA, Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Jun 1994-Jul 1998
- Assist. Research Biologist, UCSB, Marine Science Institute, Jan 1993-May 1994
- Post Doctoral Researcher, National Marine Sanctuaries Program, Jan 1992-Dec 1992
Science and Products
The public is most familiar with parasites' role in spreading infectious diseases to people and domestic animals. In tropical developing countries, malaria, schistosomiasis, and other infectious diseases cause significant human suffering. While most related studies focus on treating patients, Dr. Kevin Lafferty is studying how ecology of the local environment affects transmission of infectious diseases.
WERC's Dr. Kevin Lafferty studies the food webs of California's sandy beaches, which support a network of wildlife from predators to prey. Species that depend on this habitat include the endangered western snowy plover.
Palmyra Atoll is a low-lying coral atoll and National Wildlife Refuge located south/southwest of Hawaii near the equator in the central Pacific Ocean. USGS is a member of the Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium, which fosters collaborative multi- and inter-disciplinary studies by U.S. Department of the Interior agencies (USGS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations on the terrestrial and marine ecosystems at Palmyra Atoll. Dr. Kevin Lafferty and colleagues are using Palmyra Atoll as a natural laboratory for studying an intact coral reef ecosystem.
The Santa Barbara Channel area extends from the steep Santa Ynez Mountains on the north to the Channel Islands and adjacent continental shelf on the south and from Point Conception east to the Hueneme submarine canyon. This dynamic landscape, characterized by diverse ecosystems and both urban and rural populations, faces increasing environmental stress due to development, climate change, and natural hazards. The USGS has a long history of work in this area, providing information on a range of coastal-zone-management issues to local, State, and Federal stakeholders.
The near shore waters along the coast of southern California host one of the most productive marine ecosystems on earth: giant kelp forests. These complex environments provide habitat, food, and hiding places for more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, but are easily disturbed by both natural events and human activities. Strong storms, fluctuating water temperatures, coastal development, sedimentation, pollution, and, in particular, fishing can cause dramatic changes in kelp forest communities. WERC’s Dr. Kevin Lafferty is studying the biodiversity and renewable energy potential of the near shore environment to support resource agencies’ efforts to sustain healthy kelp forests and plan out sites for alternate energy.
Monogenea of fishes from the lagoon flats of Palmyra Atoll in the Central Pacific
A survey of the monogeneans of fishes from the lagoon flats of Palmyra Atoll detected 16 species already reported from the Indo-West Pacific faunal region. A total of 653 individual fish from 44 species were collected from the sand flats bordering the lagoon of the atoll. Eighteen species of fish were infected with monogeneans. The monogenean...Vidal-Martínez, Víctor Manuel; Soler-Jiménez, Lilia Catherinne; Aguirre-Macedo, Ma. Leopoldina; Mclaughlin, John; Jaramillo, Alejandra G.; Shaw, Jenny C.; James, Anna; Hechinger, Ryan F.; Kuris, Armand M.; Lafferty, Kevin D.
Marine infectious disease ecology
To put marine disease impacts in context requires a broad perspective on the roles infectious agents have in the ocean. Parasites infect most marine vertebrate and invertebrate species, and parasites and predators can have comparable biomass density, suggesting they play comparable parts as consumers in marine food webs. Although some parasites...Lafferty, Kevin D.
Facultative parasitism by the bivalve Kurtiella pedroana in the sand crab Emerita analoga
It is rare that an organism capable of independent or commensalistic existence can also become endoparasitic on a host. In this study, we documented a potential step toward parasitism in the commensal clam Kurtiella pedroana (Bivalvia: Galeommatoidea). Galeommatoideans are known commensals of various invertebrates, including crustaceans. Emerita...Bhaduri, Ritin; Valentich-Scott, Paul; Hilgers, Mark; Singh, Rajvir; Hickman, Mikaila; Lafferty, Kevin D.
Seroprevalence of Baylisascaris procyonis infection among humans, Santa Barbara County, California, USA, 2014–2016
Baylisascaris procyonis (raccoon roundworm) infection is common in raccoons and can cause devastating pathology in other animals, including humans. Limited information is available on the frequency of asymptomatic human infection. We tested 150 adults from California, USA, for B. procyonis antibodies; 11 were seropositive,...Weinstein, Sara B.; Lake, Camille M.; Chastain, Holly M.; Fisk, David; Handali, Sukwan; Kahn, Philip L.; Montgomery, Susan P.; Wilkins, Patricia P.; Kuris, Armand M.; Lafferty, Kevin D.
Nearly 400 million people are at higher risk of schistosomiasis because dams block the migration of snail-eating river prawns
Dams have long been associated with elevated burdens of human schistosomiasis, but how dams increase disease is not always clear, in part because dams have many ecological and socio-economic effects. A recent hypothesis argues that dams block reproduction of the migratory river prawns that eat the snail hosts of schistosomiasis. In the Senegal...Sokolow, Susanne H.; Jones, Isabel J.; Jocque, Merlijn M. T.; La, Diana; Cords, Olivia; Knight, Anika; Lund, Andrea; Wood, Chelsea L.; Lafferty, Kevin D.; Hoover, Christopher M.; Collender, Phillip A.; Remais, Justin V.; Lopez-Carr, David; Fisk, Jonathan; Kuris, Armand M.; De Leo, Giulio A.
Conservation, biodiversity and infectious disease: scientific evidence and policy implications
Habitat destruction and infectious disease are dual threats to nature and people. The potential to simultaneously advance conservation and human health has attracted considerable scientific and popular interest; in particular, many authors have justified conservation action by pointing out potential public health benefits . One major focus of this...Young, Hillary S.; Wood, Chelsea L.; Kilpatrick, A. Marm; Lafferty, Kevin D.; Nunn, Charles L.; Vincent, Jeffrey R.
Human infectious disease burdens decrease with urbanization but not with biodiversity
nfectious disease burdens vary from country to country and year to year due to ecological and economic drivers. Recently, Murray et al. (Murray CJ et al. 2012 Lancet 380, 2197–2223. (doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61689-4)) estimated country-level morbidity and mortality associated with a variety of factors, including infectious diseases, for the years...Wood, Chelsea L.; McInturff, Alex; Young, Hillary S.; Kim, DoHyung; Lafferty, Kevin D.
Host density increases parasite recruitment but decreases host risk in a snail-trematode system
Most species aggregate in local patches. High host density in patches increases contact rate between hosts and parasites, increasing parasite transmission success. At the same time, for environmentally-transmitted parasites, high host density can decrease infection risk to individual hosts, because infective stages are divided among all hosts in a...Buck, Julia C; Hechinger, R.F.; Wood, A.C.; Stewart, T.E.; Kuris, A.M.; Lafferty, Kevin D.
Molecular analyses reveal high species diversity of trematodes in a sub-Arctic lake
To identify trematode diversity and life-cycles in the sub-Arctic Lake Takvatn, Norway, we characterised 120 trematode isolates from mollusc first intermediate hosts, metacercariae from second intermediate host fishes and invertebrates, and adults from fish and invertebrate definitive hosts, using molecular techniques. Phylogenies based on nuclear...Soldánová, Miroslava; Georgieva, Simona; Roháčováa, Jana; Knudsen, Rune; Kuhn, Jesper A.; Henriksen, Eirik H.; Siwertsson, Anna; Shaw, Jenny C.; Kuris, Armand M.; Amundsen, Per-Arne; Scholz, Tomáš; Lafferty, Kevin D.; Kostadinova, Aneta
A life cycle database for parasitic acanthocephalans, cestodes, and nematodes
Parasitologists have worked out many complex life cycles over the last ~150 years, yet there have been few efforts to synthesize this information to facilitate comparisons among taxa. Most existing host-parasite databases focus on particular host taxa, do not distinguish final from intermediate hosts, and lack parasite life-history information. We...Benesh, Daniel P.; Lafferty, Kevin D.; Kuris, Armand
The rise and fall of infectious disease in a warmer world
Now-outdated estimates proposed that climate change should have increased the number of people at risk of malaria, yet malaria and several other infectious diseases have declined. Although some diseases have increased as the climate has warmed, evidence for widespread climate-driven disease expansion has not materialized, despite increased...Lafferty, Kevin D.; Mordecai, Erin A.
Revisiting Paine’s 1966 sea star removal experiment, the most-cited empirical article in the American Naturalist
“Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity” (Paine 1966) is the most-cited empirical article published in the American Naturalist. In short, Paine removed predatory sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) from the rocky intertidal and watched the key prey species, mussels (Mytilus californianus), crowd out seven subordinate primary space-...Lafferty, Kevin D.; Suchanek, Tom
Ecologist Kevin Lafferty was co-author of a paper that inspired this segment on NPR's Science Friday.