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TECHNICAL SESSION: Predictive Disease Modeling

Modeling vector behavioral thermoregulation as an effect on epidemic dynamics
Thomas Chappell - Texas A&M University.

Organisms' experience of the environment is modulated by physiological and behavioral processes. Arthropod vectors of plant pathogens are able to exploit environmental variation, resulting in survival and development that occur at rates higher than would be expected if the arthropods randomly experience environmental variation; however, most vector phenology models assume uniform and deterministic evironmental experience of arthropods. One mechanism through which arthropods exploit environmental variation is by moving in space to affect their thermal experience, which is the principal abiotic driver of development. Epidemic models of vector-transmitted plant disease are improved by accounting for arthropod behavioral thermoregulation, resulting in better predictions of vector phenology and consequent pathogen transmission. The objective of this study was to incorporate thermal ecology of vectors into predictive models of plant disease epidemics. I empirically model arthropod development as a function of temperature, and temperature as a composite function of the environment and arthropod behavior. The primary result of this study is a framework through which to interpret variation in meteorological data that are becoming increasingly resolved and useful for epidemic modeling, justified by improved predictive performance. A similar preliminary approach to moisture experience is discussed, and applications of the framework to example agricultural vector-borne diseases are demonstrated.