Biology & Marine Biology

Faculty & Staff


Julia C. Buck, Assistant Professor

Ph.D. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 2013
B.S. Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 2007
Center for Marine Science 2330 | (910) 962-2875
5600 Marvin K. Moss Lane, Wilmington, NC 28403 |

 Research interests:

Traditionally, parasites have been appreciated mainly for their direct negative effects on host fitness. However, parasites are increasingly recognized as integral members of ecological communities with the potential to alter dynamics at all levels of ecological organization. My research program in disease ecology explores the population-, community-, and ecosystem-level consequences of parasites in coastal systems. My research projects cut across taxonomic boundaries and employ empirical approaches, observational studies, and mathematical modeling. Although I seek to illuminate broadly-relevant ecological patterns, my research has management, conservation, and human health implications.

Current projects in the lab:

Direct and indirect effects of parasites: Parasitism is the most common consumer strategy on the planet, but only recently have parasites been incorporated in food webs. Like predators, parasites can have direct effects on their victims, and indirect effects on species with which their victims interact. These indirect effects might explain parasites’ profound effects in ecological communities. My students are currently investigating the direct (consumptive and non-consumptive) effects of parasites on hosts, and the (density-mediated and trait-mediated) indirect effects that follow from them.

Scale-dependence of host-parasite interactions: Epidemiological theory predicts that contact rate between hosts and parasites should increase with host density, thereby increasing parasite transmission and per capita infection risk. At the same time, for a given number of infective stages in the environment, high host density can decrease per capita infection risk because infective stages are divided (diluted) among all hosts in an area. I recently constructed a mathematical model demonstrating that whether the numerical or function response dominates depends on study scale. My students are currently testing the predictions of this model empirically.

Biodiversity-disease relationships: A major controversy in disease ecology is whether biodiversity protects against (dilution effect) or promotes (amplification effect) infectious disease. By adding another species to the host-parasite model described above, I recently demonstrated that biodiversity-disease relationships can be scale dependent. Dilution effects tend to dominate at small scales, whereas amplification effects occur at larger scales, although the opposite pattern is also possible. My students will test the predictions of this model empirically.

Recent publications:

  • Buck JC, Weinstein SB, Young HS. 2018. Ecological and evolutionary consequences of parasite avoidance. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 33: 619-632.
  • Buck JC, Perkins SE. 2018. Study scale determines whether wildlife loss protects against or promotes tick-borne disease. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285: 20180218.

  • Weinstein SB, Buck JC, Young HS. 2018. A landscape of disgust. Science 359: 1213-1214.

  • Relyea RA, Stephens PR, Barrow LN, Blaustein AR, Bradley PW, Buck JC, Chang A, Collins JP, Crother B, Earl J, Gervasi SS, Hoverman JT, Hyman O, Moriarty Lemmon E, Luhring TM, Michelson M, Murray C, Price S, Semlitsch RD, Sih A, Stoler AB, VandenBroek N, Warwick A, Wengert G, Hammond JI.  2018. Phylogenetic patterns of trait and trait plasticity evolution: Insights from amphibian embryos. Evolution 72: 663-678. ​

  • Buck JC, Ripple WJ. 2017. Infectious agents trigger trophic cascades. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 32: 681-694.​

  • Buck JC, Hechinger RF, Wood AC, Stewart TE, Kuris AM, Lafferty KD. 2017. Host density increases parasite recruitment but decreases host risk in a snail-trematode system. Ecology 98: 2029-2038. ​

  • Jones DK, Dang TD, Urbina J, Bendis RJ, Buck JC, Cothran RD, Blaustein AR, Relyea RA. 2017. Effect of simultaneous amphibian exposure to pesticides and an emerging fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidisEnvironmental Science and Technology 51: 671-679. ​

  • Buck JC, Lutterschmidt WI. 2017. Parasite abundance decreases with host density: evidence of the encounter-dilution effect for a parasite with a complex life cycle. Hydrobiologia 784: 201-210.  ​