Dr Nicholas Clark

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

School of Veterinary Science
Faculty of Science
n.clark@uq.edu.au
+61 7 54601 834

Overview

I am a disease ecologist exploring new ways to (1) understand how natural communities are formed and (2) predict how they will change over time. I completed my PhD with Dr Sonya Clegg and the Griffith University Wildlife Disease Ecology Group. This work blended ideas from disease ecology, evolution and biogeography to yield new insights into how avian malaria and microfilaria parasites disperse and evolve.

My current research focuses on developing computational phylogenetic tools and adapting techniques from statistical network theory to study how parasites interact with their hosts and to describe how these interactions change across urbanisation gradients. This work covers a broad range of host-pathogen systems including wildlife malaria, environmentally resistant microbes and zoonotic intestinal parasites.

Research Interests

  • The epidemiology of animal pathogens across the human-wildlife interface
    I am interested in using molecular genetics and epidemiology to improve understanding of how pathogen infection rates and emergence potentials will change as human encroachment alters natural environments
  • The macroecology and biogeography of infectious dieases
    This body of work aims to describe large-scale patterns in the distributions of infectious organisms in order to identify processes governing the spread and invasion potential of pathogens

Research Impacts

My research is geared towards understanding how pathogen infection rates and emergence potentials will change as human encroachment continues to alter natural environments. This work has generated translational benefits to community members by helping to provide insights into factors that can be targeted to reduce the spread of pathogens in our animals. Some key media coverage of this body of work includes:

Understanding parasite spread through wildlife: the crucial role of statistical models

Adapting statistical network models to identify biotic interactions in changing communities

Using evolutionary models to trace the emergence of harmful viruses in pet dogs

Tracing the spread of fleas from pets to wildlife and vice versa

Detecting invasive malaria parasites in Australian birds

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Griffith University

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • Spillover of parasites between wildlife and pets is a pervasive threat to animal health. Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) and related dog fleas (C. canis) are among the world’s most economically important ectoparasites. Both can infest domestic pets as well as a diversity of wildlife species. Yet knowledge on their distributions, particularly among wildlife, is poor. To provide the first assessment of ectoparasite populations among Australia’s wild mammals, our team is currently sampling parasites from native and feral mammals across urbanization gradients in Southeast Queensland. The aims of this project are twofold: (1) to contribute to wildlife trapping and surveying efforts; (2) to develop DNA markers that can be used to understand the influences of biotic and environmental features on the genetic population structure of cat fleas. Interests in genetics, wildlife sampling and data analysis will be appreciated.

    Working as part of a vibrant research team involving a diversity of collaborators, students will benefit in the following ways:

    (1) Experience in sampling design and data collection in field and laboratory environments

    (2) Quantitative analysis of multistructure datasets

    (3) Contributing to the planning, writing and submission of peer-reviewed publications

    This project is funded and has ethics approval

    Collaborators involved: Prof Jenny Seddon, Ms Tatiana Proboste

  • Wildlife hospitals offer a tremendous service to the local community. One of the key benefits they can provide is gathering information on spatial and temporal patterns in wildlife trauma incidents. Understanding which species are more susceptible to trauma, and uncovering particular areas or times of the year when incidents are more likely to occur, can provide powerful leverage to local planners, conservation groups and policymakers. This project will apply spatial modelling tools to a large dataset of wildlife hospital clinical records to identify factors associated with increased incidence of trauma. Outputs will consist of high-resolution maps of trauma incidence estimates and reports aimed at influencing planning decisions in efforts to reduce these occurrences. Interests in wildlife Health, conservation and spatial data analysis will be appreciated.

    Working as part of a vibrant research team involving a diversity of collaborators, students will benefit in the following ways:

    (1) Quantitative data analysis and spatial modelling

    (2) Interacting with wildlife veterinarians to guide a joint research agenda

    (3) Contributing to the planning, writing and submission of peer-reviewed publications

    This project is funded and has ethics approval

    Collaborators involved: A/Prof Ricardo Soares Magalhães

  • Paralysis ticks (Ixodes holocyclus) and cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) are two of Australia's most economically important ectoparasites. Both parasites cause morbidity in pets and can infest a diversity of wildlife species. This represents a substantial One Health issue, yet factors that influence risk of parasite infestation, and how people perceive this risk, are not known. This presents a challenge for animal health workers, as people’s risk perception and knowledge of their pets’ interactions with wildlife can influence parasite spread at the domestic animal – wildlife interface. This project aims to understand factors that influence pet owners’ perceptions of ectoparasite infestation risk. Voluntary questionnaires and requests for public parasite submissions will be used to identify factors influencing risk of paralysis tick and flea spillover between wildlife and pets in southeast Queensland. Data collected will be non-identifiable but will provide necessary information to (1) quantitatively assess environmental and demographic correlates with risk perception; and (2) contribute to spatial models of incidence risk. Interests in One Health, wildlife disease and spatial data analysis will be appreciated.

    Working as part of a vibrant research team involving a diversity of collaborators, students will benefit in the following ways:

    (1) Community engagement from a One Health perspective

    (2) Quantitative data analysis and spatial modelling

    (3) Contributing to the planning, writing and submission of peer-reviewed publications

    This project is funded and has ethics approval

    Collaborators involved: Prof Jenny Seddon, A/Prof Ricardo Soares Magalhães, Dr Konstans Wells, Ms Tatiana Proboste

View all Available Projects

Publications

Journal Article

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Spillover of parasites between wildlife and pets is a pervasive threat to animal health. Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) and related dog fleas (C. canis) are among the world’s most economically important ectoparasites. Both can infest domestic pets as well as a diversity of wildlife species. Yet knowledge on their distributions, particularly among wildlife, is poor. To provide the first assessment of ectoparasite populations among Australia’s wild mammals, our team is currently sampling parasites from native and feral mammals across urbanization gradients in Southeast Queensland. The aims of this project are twofold: (1) to contribute to wildlife trapping and surveying efforts; (2) to develop DNA markers that can be used to understand the influences of biotic and environmental features on the genetic population structure of cat fleas. Interests in genetics, wildlife sampling and data analysis will be appreciated.

    Working as part of a vibrant research team involving a diversity of collaborators, students will benefit in the following ways:

    (1) Experience in sampling design and data collection in field and laboratory environments

    (2) Quantitative analysis of multistructure datasets

    (3) Contributing to the planning, writing and submission of peer-reviewed publications

    This project is funded and has ethics approval

    Collaborators involved: Prof Jenny Seddon, Ms Tatiana Proboste

  • Wildlife hospitals offer a tremendous service to the local community. One of the key benefits they can provide is gathering information on spatial and temporal patterns in wildlife trauma incidents. Understanding which species are more susceptible to trauma, and uncovering particular areas or times of the year when incidents are more likely to occur, can provide powerful leverage to local planners, conservation groups and policymakers. This project will apply spatial modelling tools to a large dataset of wildlife hospital clinical records to identify factors associated with increased incidence of trauma. Outputs will consist of high-resolution maps of trauma incidence estimates and reports aimed at influencing planning decisions in efforts to reduce these occurrences. Interests in wildlife Health, conservation and spatial data analysis will be appreciated.

    Working as part of a vibrant research team involving a diversity of collaborators, students will benefit in the following ways:

    (1) Quantitative data analysis and spatial modelling

    (2) Interacting with wildlife veterinarians to guide a joint research agenda

    (3) Contributing to the planning, writing and submission of peer-reviewed publications

    This project is funded and has ethics approval

    Collaborators involved: A/Prof Ricardo Soares Magalhães

  • Paralysis ticks (Ixodes holocyclus) and cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) are two of Australia's most economically important ectoparasites. Both parasites cause morbidity in pets and can infest a diversity of wildlife species. This represents a substantial One Health issue, yet factors that influence risk of parasite infestation, and how people perceive this risk, are not known. This presents a challenge for animal health workers, as people’s risk perception and knowledge of their pets’ interactions with wildlife can influence parasite spread at the domestic animal – wildlife interface. This project aims to understand factors that influence pet owners’ perceptions of ectoparasite infestation risk. Voluntary questionnaires and requests for public parasite submissions will be used to identify factors influencing risk of paralysis tick and flea spillover between wildlife and pets in southeast Queensland. Data collected will be non-identifiable but will provide necessary information to (1) quantitatively assess environmental and demographic correlates with risk perception; and (2) contribute to spatial models of incidence risk. Interests in One Health, wildlife disease and spatial data analysis will be appreciated.

    Working as part of a vibrant research team involving a diversity of collaborators, students will benefit in the following ways:

    (1) Community engagement from a One Health perspective

    (2) Quantitative data analysis and spatial modelling

    (3) Contributing to the planning, writing and submission of peer-reviewed publications

    This project is funded and has ethics approval

    Collaborators involved: Prof Jenny Seddon, A/Prof Ricardo Soares Magalhães, Dr Konstans Wells, Ms Tatiana Proboste