Welcome to The Penczykowski Lab!
Q1: What is the BIG PICTURE of your research?
A1: Parasites are infamous for causing great harm – and sometimes even death – to their hosts. Understanding risks and consequences of infection is therefore critically important for public health, wildlife management, and agriculture. One aim of our research is to better understand how ecological context (including physical and chemical features of the environment as well as the community of organisms living there) affects the risk of infection and consequences of disease for hosts. This is a particularly important area of research because human-driven changes in climate, land use, and biodiversity are altering the ecological context in which host–parasite interactions occur.
Effects of parasites can also extend beyond host populations. Changes in the density or traits of infected hosts may affect other members of the ecological community, and alter flows of energy and nutrients through food webs. Thus, another aim of our research is to uncover how parasites influence the communities and ecosystems in which they occur.
Q2: What is your approach to research?
A2: We use a combination of observational (field), experimental (field + lab), and theoretical (mathematical modelling) approaches.
Q3: What host–parasite systems do you work on, and where are your field sites?
A3: Our lab is currently focusing on the interaction between Plantago species and their powdery mildew pathogens along a large latitudinal gradient in the central USA, as well as locally in the St. Louis area. Visit the Research page for details.