Disease Ecology


About this course

The overarching aim of the course is to offer a current and comprehensive view of the causes and consequences of infectious disease at the levels of individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems. Primary objectives are that students understand 1) the host-parasite relationship as a key ecological interaction (i.e., analogous to the predator-prey relationship) and 2) the general approaches and specific techniques essential to the study disease ecology.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • summarize the key features and describe the impact/relevance of different infectious diseases affecting free-living organisms;
  • evaluate behavioral and ecological factors that affect spatio-temporal variation in disease outbreaks;
  • make and justify predictions relating to ecological variation and host immune defenses;
  • assess methods for studying diseases and host defenses of wild populations;
  • design and implement an ecological study to answer a question related to diseases and host defenses;
  • develop and analyze compartmental models and other SIR models, including through the use of programming software (e.g., R);
  • appraise the strengths and limitations of modelling diseases and outbreaks in wild populations;
  • compare and contrast scenarios that would and would not result in a disease outbreak;
  • evaluate potential interventions for their capacity to control an outbreak.

Teaching method and examination

Three main components will contribute equally to the final grade:

  • Final examination (based on entire lecture/theory component).
  • Project I (computer/modelling practical; here a subset of the exercise is submitted for evaluation and feedback).
  • Project II (field/laboratory practical; here short research summaries supported by PowerPoint slides (or equivalent) are presented in class for evaluation and feedback).

The following aspects of both projects will be used for assessment: 1) clarity of and integration into disease ecology framework; 2) depth and quality of analyses; 3) quality, relevance, and appropriate use of peer-reviewed scientific literature and other sources; and 4) overall presentation technique and layout. To pass the course, a minimum grade of 5.50 is required for each component (examination, project I, and project II). Grades for each components are kept on record until the end of the following academic year.

Required prior knowledge

Mandatory Knowledge:
ZSS06200 Fieldwork Safety
Assumed Knowledge:
Ecological interactions, basic physiology, basic microbiology, e.g.,
MBI: CBI20306 Cell Biology and Health, HAP21806 Behavioural Endocrinology, NEM20806 Basics of Infectious Diseases.
MFN: WEC20803 Applied Animal Ecology, WEC30306 Animal Ecology.
MAS: QVE20306 Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics, QVE30306 Quantitative Veterinary Epidemiology, QVE30806 Management of Infections and Diseases in Animal Populations.

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Wageningen University.


  • Start date

    13 mei 2024

    • Ends
      5 juli 2024
    • Term *
      Period 6
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    Enrolment period closed
  • Start date

    12 mei 2025

    • Ends
      4 juli 2025
    • Term *
      Period 6
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    Enrolment starts in 44 days
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