Emily J. Flies

Health ecologist. Spatial Scientist. Communicator.


I have taken a meandering route to my current position of postdoctoral research fellow. My undergraduate (Bachelor of Arts) degree was in anthropology and psychology from the University of Buffalo, USA. I then spent a few years teaching outdoor education and travelling. During this time, my physical anthropology interest in primates intersected with my passion for ecology and I did an independent study investigating the impact of environmental disruption on the faecal parasite loads in monkeys in Costa Rica. That experience helped ignite my passion for research and I returned to school to conduct my masters degree at Michigan State University, USA. I investigated whether certain bird species could become infected with a tick-borne bacteria (Anaplasma phagocytophilum) and whether they could pass on that infection.

During my masters degree, I became more interested in the connections between human, animal and environmental health (One Health). My PhD research, as part of the Healthy Environments, Healthy People Research Group at the University of South Australia, explored how ecological factors are impacting transmission of mosquito-borne infections in South Australia. During my PhD, I developed a novel mosquito-borne virus surveillance technique that used nucleic acid-preserving paper coated in honey, and lots of recycled milk cartons and pantyhose. With those special traps, I sampled over 100 field sites four times throughout the transmission season and detected three different viruses in the mosquitoes of South Australia. With my spatial analysis, I was able to identify the social and environmental factors associated with higher rates of human infections.

My postdoctoral position is at the University of Tasmania in the Dynamics of Eco-evolutionary Patterns lab directed by Prof. Barry Brook. In this lab, I am applying my spatial and statistical analysis skills to topics of global concern. My current project involves modelling global food demand to understand future drivers of land use change. I hope that my work with the DEEP lab can lay a foundation upon which evidence-based policy can build.

I am also passionate about improving public understanding of science and engagement with science through better science communication. In 2014, during my PhD, my partner and I co-founded Science in the Pub Adelaide (SciPubAdelaide.org.au) and, since moving to Hobart in 2015, Science in the Pub Tasmania (SciPubTas.org.au). These two ongoing, non-profit organizations each bring a panel of 3 engaging, knowledgeable scientists into a pub to explain, to discuss a scientific topic with each other and the attendees. We average ~80-100 audience members each month, have acquired grants and sponsorship to provide free hot nibbles for the audience and free drinks for the panel and we conduct a raffle each month to make the events self-sustaining. We learn a lot and have a great time at each event and consistently get feedback from the audience (through our monthly survey)  that they do too.

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