Dr Stephanie Godfrey
BSc (Hons) PhD

DECRA Postdoctoral Fellow

About me

I am a DECRA Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences. My research background lies at the intersection of host-parasite ecology and behavioural ecology; with a particular focus on using social network models to understand how host behaviour influences the transmission of parasites in wildlife populations.

Research Background

Parasites pass from one host to another, either directly through physical contact; or indirectly, through a vector, intermediate host, or an environmental reservoir containing infectious stages of a parasite. Thus, the way an individual associates with other hosts, and uses its environment, can influence its exposure to, and the transmission of, parasites. Scaling this up to the population level; the way hosts interact, and overlap in the use of their environment (refuges and foraging space), may generate a network of pathways for the transmission of parasites among hosts. Social networks allow us to visualise and quantify these pathways for transmission through a host population, represented as a series of nodes (representing individuals) connected together by edges (representing pathways for transmission). Traditional epidemiological models assumed parasite transmission was a random process, and largely dependent on host density. However, most animal populations are structured in some way, and the form of social organisation is likely to impact the way parasites are spread through populations.

I have worked on reptiles with a variety of different forms of social organisation, including group-living in the gidgee skink (Egernia stokesii), solitary-territoriality in the  tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus), pair-living in the sleepy lizard (Tiliqua rugosa), and central-place territoriality in the pygmy bluetongue lizard (Tiliqua adelaidensis). In each of these systems, we developed networks to reflect the transmission pathways of the parasites. Through comparisons of network metrics and empirical measures of parasite infection patterns, we were able to provide new insights into the role of host behaviour in the transmission of parasites in wildlife populations.

Current Research

Although much of my past research has involved a variety of reptilian host-parasite systems, I have recently arrived at Murdoch University to join Professor Andrew Thompson’s research group, to apply these methods to understanding the transmission of bettong parasites.

Doctoral and masters supervisions

Current PhD students

Stephanie Hing (August 2013 – present) – Stress and disease in woylies

Krista Jones (August 2013 – present) – Behaviour and parasite transmission in woylies

 

PhD opportunities

PhD projects available in wildlife parasitology (Murdoch University)

The Parasitology Section within the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences at Murdoch University invite applications for PhD students to join a new ARC-funded research program, looking at the ecology of parasite transmission in fauna translocations. The program aims to (1) quantify parasite transmission between hosts in translocated and recipient host populations; (2) explore the impact of translocation on host-parasite communities; (3) evaluate the impacts of parasite removal on host translocation success; and (4) develop models that can be used to optimise translocation strategies. To achieve these aims we will track the dynamics of parasite communities during translocations of small mammals at various localities in Western Australia and South Australia.

We have two PhD scholarships available at the APAI rate ($27,651 pa). The scholarships will be awarded on a competitive basis, and are only available to domestic, full-time students. The research program will involve both field-based research on parasite population dynamics and laboratory work on the development and application of molecular epidemiological tools and we envisage that each PhD project will focus in one of these areas, although and we invite applicants to tailor their research project to their own interests within the broader research program.

In the first instance, we invite interested applicants to contact Professor Andrew Thompson (a.thompson@murdoch.edu.au), Associate Professor Alan Lymbery (a.lymbery@murdoch.edu.au) or Dr Stephanie Godfrey (s.godfrey@murdoch.edu.au) about their interest in the proposed project. Applications should be made through the Murdoch University scholarships page. Applications for scholarships close on the 31st October 2013, and the project will begin in early 2014.

Publications

Journals

  • Thompson, C., Wayne, A., Godfrey, S., Thompson, R., (2014), Temporal and spatial dynamics of trypanosomes infecting the brush-tailed bettong (Bettongia penicillata): a cautionary note of disease-induced population decline, Parasites & Vectors, 7, , pages 169 -.
  • Godfrey, S., Anasri, T., Gardner, M., Farine, D., Bull, C., (2014), A contact-based social network of lizards is defined by low genetic relatedness among strongly connected individuals, Animal Behaviour, 97, , .
  • Thompson, C., Godfrey, S., Thompson, R., (2014), Trypanosomes of Australian Mammals: a review, International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, 3, 2, pages 57 - 66.
  • Hing, S., Narayan, E., Thompson, R., Godfrey, S., (2014), A review of factors influencing the stress response in Australian marsupials, Conservation Physiology, 2, , pages 10.1093/conphys/cou027 - 17.
  • Wohlfeil, C., Leu, S., Godfrey, S., Bull, C., (2013), Testing the robustness of transmission network models to predict ectoparasite loads. One lizard, two ticks and four years, International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, 2, , pages 271 - 277.
  • Godfrey, S., Sih, A., Bull, C., (2013), The response of a sleepy lizard social network to altered ecological conditions, Animal Behaviour, 86, 4, pages 763 - 772.
  • Godfrey, S., (2013), Networks and the ecology of parasite transmission: A framework for wildlife parasitology, International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, 2, , pages 235 - 245.
  • Thompson, C., Botero Gomez, L., Wayne, A., Godfrey, S., Lymbery, A., Thompson, R., (2013), Morphological polymorphism of Trypanosoma copemani and description of the genetically diverse T. vergrandis sp. nov. from the critically endangered Australian potoroid, the brush-tailed bettong (Bettongia penicillata), Parasites & Vectors, 6, 121, pages 1 - 13.
  • Gardner, M., Godfrey, S., Fenner, A., Donnellan, S., Bull, C., (2012), Fine-scale spatial structuring as an inbreeding avoidance mechanism in the social skink Egernia stokesii, Australian Journal of Zoology, 60, , pages 272 - 277.

Please see my Google Scholar page for an up to date list of my publications.