In this free online event, we looked at the ecology behind coronavirus, in particular how taking bats out of their natural habitats may have led to the virus moving to humans, as was the case with Ebola, SARS, and MERS.
Our speaker, Professor Kate Jones, specialises in the ecology and biodiversity of bats and also Zoonotic diseases—infectious disease that spreads from animals to humans.
Bats live with coronavirus without being ill. One in five animal species is a bat, and they help humans by controlling harmful insects and pollinating crops such as bananas and agave (a plant species used in medicine, food, and cosmetics).
The pandemic underscores the need to think about biodiversity holistically. By respecting ecosystems, we can think in a long term way that recognises the interdependence of human and animal health with the environment.
Professor Kate Jones
Chair of Ecology and Biodiversity
Genetics, Evolution & Environment, Div of Biosciences
University College London
Professor Kate Jones’s work focuses on how ecological and evolutionary processes produce global biodiversity patterns to understand how change impacts nature. Kate’s biodiversity modelling research is on the ecology and evolution of mammals, especially bats, to understand drivers of population and species extinction. She also models the relationships between wildlife and people to understand how climate change and other global challenges will impact human infectious diseases. Kate also investigates how to improve current biodiversity monitoring to engage citizen scientists and develop new algorithms classifying species using artificial intelligence. Kate has developed global citizen science programmes with The Bat Conservation Trust involving volunteers from across the world to monitor bat populations acoustically, collaborating extensively with national conservation NGOs and governments.