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Butler Invited to Lecture in Great Britain about His Marine Disease Research

Mark Butler

Mark Butler, professor and eminent scholar of biological sciences at Old Dominion University, has been invited to give a public lecture about his innovative research, "Ecological Impacts of Diseases in the Oceans," at the University of Manchester in Great Britain.

The talk, on Tuesday, May 3, will be part of a fund-raising event for the university's Sustainable Consumption Institute, as well as in association with the opening of a new gallery, "Living Worlds," at the University of Manchester Museum.

The talk also is being promoted by the British Science Association.

"In this presentation, I will touch upon a few of the myriad ways in which disease can alter the ecology of marine ecosystems, drawing in part upon research by my colleagues and me on the Caribbean spiny lobster's interaction with the Panulirus argus Virus 1," Butler said.

Diseases in marine organisms were for years considered rare in the sea and the focus of few academic specialists. Occasionally, the diseases have been the bane of fishermen when their catches dwindled because of an epizootic - the equivalent of an epidemic in humans. But generally the subject of marine diseases lurked in the backwaters of scientific and public concern.

"No longer," Butler said. "Reports of disease are growing more frequent in marine ecosystems. Whether a reflection of greater scientific scrutiny or truly an emerging problem, it is becoming increasingly clear that diseases can have severe consequences for host populations and frequently the marine communities in which they dwell."

Outbreaks of disease now threaten iconic fisheries and ecosystems: the southern New England fishery for American lobster and coral reefs, for example. New studies are revealing how human practices influence disease dynamics in the sea and how the effects of disease in one species can initiate a spiral of unanticipated impacts.

Butler, whose research promotes the stocks of blue crabs along the mid-Atlantic coast and of spiny lobsters in the Caribbean, was a 2011 recipient of the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award sponsored by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

He has been the principal or co-principal investigator on more than 50 grants totalling nearly $8 million since he joined ODU in 1989. Much of the support has come from the National Science Foundation, which has continuously funded his research since 1995.

This article was posted on: April 29, 2011

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