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OU professor publishes research article in Nature Climate Change

Monday, August 13, 2012
OU professor publishes research article in Nature Climate Change
By Katie Land, news editor

One of Oakland University’s newest professors is already making a big splash, with the publication of his research paper in the prestigious journal, Nature Climate Change.

In collaboration with researchers from the University of South Florida, where he conducted post-doctoral work, Dr. Tom Raffel’s research explores climate effects on diseases, with specific emphasis on amphibian diseases.

The article entitled “Disease and thermal acclimation in a more variable and unpredictable climate,” appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 12, issue of Nature Climate Change. To view the article, click here. 

The accolade was a welcome boost to Dr. Raffel, who will join Oakland’s department of Biological Sciences this fall as an assistant professor.

“I’m very excited,” he said of the article’s publication. “Also, I feel somewhat vindicated, because I have been working for years to publicize our ideas about the importance of accounting for temperature variability when studying climate-disease interactions.”

The study, which began in 2007, was aided by an Environmental Protection Agency grant and has inspired additional research projects for Dr. Raffel, notably a National Science Foundation sponsored project that examines acclimation effects on trematode parasites in tadpoles.

“This work is important because it shows how much we still have to learn about climate disease interactions,” Dr. Raffel explained. “There is growing evidence that global climate change will involve increases in climate variability, in addition to changes in mean temperature, making this topic particularly timely.”

Most prior studies of climate-disease interactions have focused on the effects of mean temperature on parasitism and disease, according to Dr. Raffel. However, his study demonstrates the importance of examining fluctuations in temperature, because both hosts and parasites need time to acclimate after encountering an unpredictable temperature shift.

Acclimation responses are important in most animals and have the potential to influence human diseases, so Dr. Raffel’s research into the acclimation responses of cold-blooded animals offer important implications for the study of climate effects on disease.

In his previous post at Dickinson College, Dr. Raffel taught courses in ecology and comparative vertebrate anatomy. At Oakland, he will teach courses in parasitology and ecology, and will continue his research on climate-disease interactions.

For more information about Oakland’s biology department, view the website. To learn more about Dr. Raffel’s research, view his lab page.