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...
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-...
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...
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...
Detecting southern California’s white sharks with environmental DNA
To improve ability to detect white sharks without the need for tags, or visual census, we developed a species-specific environmental DNA (eDNA) assay that targets a 163 bp fragment of the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) mitochondrial cytochrome B gene on a digital droplet PCR (ddPCR) platform. We used this marker to detect white shark DNA in...Lafferty, Kevin D.; Benesh, Kasey C.; Mahon, Andrew R.; Jerde, Christopher L.; Lowe, Christopher G.
Sea‐level rise, habitat loss, and potential extirpation of a salt marsh specialist bird in urbanized landscapes
Sea‐level rise (SLR) impacts on intertidal habitat depend on coastal topology, accretion, and constraints from surrounding development. Such habitat changes might affect species like Belding's savannah sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis beldingi; BSSP), which live in high‐elevation salt marsh in the Southern California Bight. To predict how BSSP...Rosencranz, Jordan; Thorne, Karen M.; Buffington, Kevin J.; Takekawa, John Y.; Hechinger, Ryan F.; Stewart, Tara E.; Ambrose, Richard F.; MacDonald, Glen M.; Holmgren, Mark A.; Crooks, Jeff A.; Patton, Robert T.; Lafferty, Kevin D.
Parasitism and the biodiversity-functioning relationship
Biodiversity affects ecosystem functioning.Biodiversity may decrease or increase parasitism.Parasites impair individual hosts and affect their role in the ecosystem.Parasitism, in common with competition, facilitation, and predation, could regulate BD-EF relationships.Parasitism affects host phenotypes, including changes to host morphology,...Frainer, André; McKie, Brendan G.; Amundsen, Per-Arne; Knudsen, Rune; Lafferty, Kevin D.
Restricted access Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, increases faunal diversity through physical engineering
Foundation species define the ecosystems they live in, but ecologists have often characterized dominant plants as foundational without supporting evidence. Giant kelp has long been considered a marine foundation species due to its complex structure and high productivity; however, there is little quantitative evidence to evaluate this. Here, we...Miller, Robert J.; Lafferty, Kevin D.; Lamy, Thomas; Kui, Li; Rassweiler, Andrew; Reed, Daniel C.
Local extinction of the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) following rat eradication on Palmyra Atol
The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, appears to have been extirpated from Palmyra Atoll following rat eradication. Anecdotal biting reports, collection records, and regular captures in black-light traps showed the species was present before rat eradication. Since then, there have been no biting reports and no captures over 2 years...Lafferty, Kevin D.; McLaughlin, John P.; Gruner, Daniel S.; Bogar, Taylor A.; Bui, An; Childress, Jasmine N.; Espinoza, Magaly; Forbes, Elizabeth S.; Johnston, Cora A.; Klope, Maggie; Kuile, Ana Miller-ter; Lee, Michelle; Plummer, Katherine A.; Weber, David A.; Young, Ronald T.; Young, Hillary S.
Unique parasite aDNA in moa coprolites from New Zealand suggests mass parasite extinctions followed human-induced megafauna extinctions
Having split early from Gondwana, Zealandia (now modern New Zealand) escaped discovery until the late 13th century, and therefore remains an important glimpse into a human-free world. Without humans or other land mammals, diverse and peculiar birds evolved in isolation, including several flightless moa species, the giant pouakai eagle (Harpagornis...Lafferty, Kevin D.; Hopkins, Skylar R.
To reduce the global burden of human schistosomiasis, use ‘old fashioned’ snail control
Control strategies to reduce human schistosomiasis have evolved from ‘snail picking’ campaigns, a century ago, to modern wide-scale human treatment campaigns, or preventive chemotherapy. Unfortunately, despite the rise in preventive chemotherapy campaigns, just as many people suffer from schistosomiasis today as they did 50 years ago. Snail...Sokolow, Susanne H.; Wood, Chelsea L.; Jones, Isabel J.; Lafferty, Kevin D.; Kuris, Armand; Hsieh, Michael H.; De Leo, Giulio A.
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.
Grand challenges for integrated USGS science—A workshop report
Executive SummaryThe U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has a long history of advancing the traditional Earth science disciplines and identifying opportunities to integrate USGS science across disciplines to address complex societal problems. The USGS science strategy for 2007–2017 laid out key challenges in disciplinary and interdisciplinary arenas,...Jenni, Karen E.; Goldhaber, Martin B.; Betancourt, Julio L.; Baron, Jill S.; Bristol, R. Sky; Cantrill, Mary; Exter, Paul E.; Focazio, Michael J.; Haines, John W.; Hay, Lauren E.; Hsu, Leslie; Labson, Victor F.; Lafferty, Kevin D.; Ludwig, K.A.; Milly, Paul C. D.; Morelli, Toni L.; Morman, Suzette A.; Nassar, Nedal T.; Newman, Timothy R.; Ostroff, Andrea C. ; Read, Jordan S.; Reed, Sasha C.; Shapiro, Carl D.; Smith, Richard A.; Sanford, Ward E.; Sohl, Terry L.; Stets, Edward G.; Terando, Adam J.; Tillitt, Donald E.; Tischler, Michael A.; Toccalino, Patricia L.; Wald, David J.; Waldrop, Mark P.; Wein, Anne; Weltzin, Jake F.; Zimmerman, Christian E.
The Asian tiger mosquito can carry dread diseases like Zika, and yellow and dengue fever. After it vanished from Palmyra Atoll, an island in the tropical Pacific, USGS researchers and partners set out to find out why.
Ecologist Kevin Lafferty was co-author of a paper that inspired this segment on NPR's Science Friday.