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Katriona Shea Appointed Alumni Professor in the Biological Sciences

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11 March 2015

Kat SheaKatriona Shea, professor of biology at Penn State University, has been named the Alumni Professor in the Biological Sciences. Shea is an ecologist whose research in applied theoretical ecology involves the application of mathematical and computational methods to guide decision-making in population management, conservation efforts, control of invasive pests, and control of infectious diseases.

Shea's research aims to provide the in-depth ecological understanding that is essential to limiting outbreaks of infectious diseases and managing populations of species of special concern. Her methods include quantitative theoretical studies of real systems, purely theoretical studies that inform practical approaches, and empirical studies. Shea, and Penn State Assistant Professor of Biology Matthew Ferrari, recently applied a decision-making approach not previously used in epidemiology, called Adaptive Management, to integrate scientific learning with the process of developing health policy to optimize response to outbreaks of infectious disease. In models of vaccination strategies used to combat measles outbreaks and models of the outbreak dynamics of foot-and-mouth disease in livestock, Shea and Ferrari showed that Adaptive Management would allow a more nimble response by policymakers that would limit the health impact and cost of the outbreaks.

Shea joined the Penn State faculty in spring 2001. She had been a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz where she worked on conservation strategies for threatened salmon. Her background also includes work on pest management in Australia, plus additional postdoctoral work studying host-parasite population dynamics and stability at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She has worked as an instructor for a variety of ecological classes. Her field experience includes research projects in locales ranging from rain forests in Guyana to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

She earned her doctoral degree in theoretical population ecology at London University in 1994 and her bachelor’s degree in physics at Oxford University in 1990.

[ S J S ]

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