Interdisciplinarity in Fox Center Fellowship

by Christie Jones, 21C Environmental Sciences

I was introduced to the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry through my work with the Halle Institute as a 2020 undergraduate global research fellow. From my time as a Halle fellow, I recognize the value of interdisciplinary discussion and feedback in research. I started my research with a firm science background—blind to resources outside of my field—but my experience with a cohort of diverse backgrounds and interests in the fall of 2020 quickly changed my perspective. The Fox Center undergraduate humanities fellowship provided a new environment to continue my growth as a researcher. As a fellow, I have had the opportunity to further develop both my research and my voice; exchanges with undergraduate and graduate fellows alike helped me to improve my scientific communication skills and pushed me to find the deeply human story that surrounds and informs my work.

My research, titled “Land-use as a factor in the re-emergence of rabies in Costa Rica,” centers around the transmission dynamics of rabies virus between vampire bats and cattle. Rabies, a viral zoonotic disease, is endemic to Costa Rica and most commonly transmitted through the bite of the vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus). Though vaccine-treatable, estimates show that the virus causes almost 60,000 human deaths per year and recent human rabies cases in Costa Rica show the potential for the virus to re-emerge in human populations. Examining this disease system, I was interested in the potential impact of anthropogenic development and expansion. This aspect of my project allowed me to connect with the historical land management of Costa Rica, and more broadly the history and cultural notions surrounding rabies. As Dr. Walter Melion first explained it to me, I was tapping into the framework of ecohumanism. Monthly workshops with the undergraduate fellows pushed me to consistently focus my research within the broader picture and emphasize the human relationship with nature. Feedback from such a varied collection of viewpoints greatly enhanced my own research.

Often in my advisor Dr. Thomas Gillespie’s lab we discuss the mission of “One Health,” a multidisciplinary approach to health that assumes the strong relationship between humans, other animals, plants, and our environment. The foundation of this concept is interdisciplinarity. Responding to complex health questions with context for the system of interactions between organisms and Earth requires collaboration between diverse parties. My point in explaining this concept is to say: the Fox Center lesson of interdisciplinarity is important to my personal development, and crucial to creating sustainable and innovative approaches to life’s questions.

Through our discussions, I improved the clarity and narrative of my project. As I continue my research as a Master’s candidate at the Rollins School of Public Health, I am thankful for the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the Fox Center provided meaningful support, mentorship, and community throughout the semester. Thank you to my peers, Dr. Walter Melion, Keith Anthony, and Colette Barlow for always lending a listening ear and contributing to a community for which I am wildly grateful to be a part.

Christie Jones is a candidate for a B.S. in Environmental Sciences, as well as a master’s degree in Public Health through the Rollins School of Public Health. As a Halle/Fox Undergraduate Fellow, Christie is completing a senior capstone investigating rabies transmission dynamics in Costa Rica. Titled “Land-use as a factor in the re-emergence of rabies in Costa Rica,” her project explores the prevalence and transmission of the virus from a geographical perspective. She aims to improve understanding of vampire bat foraging behavior and landscape-related risk factors for rabies in order to limit zoonotic disease spillover in humans.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s