Michael H. Cortez, Assistant Professor


All of my publications are listed on my Google Scholar profile.

1. Epidemiological Theory for Multi-Host-Multi-Pathogen Systems

Most communities are made up of (i) many host species that are infected by more than one pathogen species and (ii) many pathogen species that can be infected multiple host species. My work explores how between-host interactions (e.g., competition for resources), between-pathogen interactions (e.g., competition between coinfecting pathogens), and host-pathogen interactions shape disease dynamics in multi-host-multi-pathogen communities. This work is funded by the NSF and in collaboration with Meghan Duffy (University of Michigan), whose Daphnia system is being used to test theoretical predictions. Our work will help explain how host biodiversity influences levels of disease prevalence (related to amplification and dilution of disease) and how coinfection helps shape disease outbreak patterns.

My other work on epidemiological systems lies at the intersection of epidemiology and evolution. This work explores how host and pathogen evolution alter the population-level dynamics of host-pathogen systems.

2. Ecological Theory for Adapting Species

Adaptation can be evolutionary or plastic in nature, and both have the potential to alter ecological dynamics (e.g., changes in species' densities or spatial distributions). My work explores how adaptation shapes species' population-level dynamics, and when evoution and plasticity have similar versus different effects. Much of my previous work has focused on developing eco-evolutionary theory for predator-prey systems. My current work focuses on developing theory for evolutionary and plastic adaptation in larger communities. This work is funded by the NSF and in collaboration with Edd Hammill (Utah State University), whose protist system is being used to test theoretical predictions. Our work will help explain how ecological feedbacks, evolutionary feedbacks, eco-evolutionary feedbacks, and their counterparts for plastic adaptation shape the ecological dynamics of communities. It will also help explain how the speed of adaptation and other characteristics influence those effects.

3. Community Ecology Theory

The interactions between species can direct (e.g., predators consuming prey) and indirect (species A affects species B which affects species C). This means that the network of links between species in a community can have a strong impact on the population-level dynamics of a given species. My work in this area focuses on phenomena known as hydra effects, wherein increased mortality of a species counter-intuitively causes an increase in that species' population size. Identifying the drives of hydra effects is important because the presence of a hydra effect can influence management strategies about harvested populations and pest control. I use mathematical models to determine how between-species interactions, spatial connectivity, and adaptation influence whether hydra effects arise.