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Meet Drew Harvell

Dr. Drew Harvell is the 2020 recipient of the ESA Sustainability Science Award. She is the author of the new book, Ocean Outbreak: Confronting the Rising Tide of Marine Disease. Her book tackles a critical issue in sustainability science and human well-being: How to live in a world with increasing infectious disease. Specifically, she focuses on ocean health and how we can sustain ocean health in the face of increases in infectious disease fueled by pollution and climate change.

Dr. Harvell explained how she builds the scenario of advancing threats of marine disease through case histories representing four themes of ocean disease damage: climate change fuels new outbreaks, ocean pollution and aquaculture increase risk of disease, ecological balance at the top and bottom of food chains is disrupted, and ecosystem services (among other solutions) can improve ocean and human health. She describes how,  “1) increasing outbreaks of corals are directly driven by warming events and thus climate change, 2) a new and unexpected outbreak affecting an entire guild of starfish shows the power of infectious disease to imperil ecologically important biota and trigger trophic cascades, 3) a long simmering outbreak in abalone shows the challenge of identifying infectious agents in the ocean and 4) consequences of multiple species driven to endangerment by disease, globally spreading virus outbreaks in farmed salmon reveal the threats to our food systems and potential for pathogen pollution.”

Dr. Harvell also added, while this sounds grim, that there are positive paths in the future and she discusses the unexpected powers of ecosystem services as contributing to ocean health. Additionally, she discusses how other discoveries from oceans can contribute to better wildlife and human health.

When asked what her favorite part about being an ESA member is, Dr. Harvell said, “The community of ecologists and the focus on new discoveries by young scientists. I love the ESA Early Career Fellows program.” Dr. Harvell has been a part of the Aquatic Ecology Section, Disease Ecology Section, and is on the subcommittee for Fellows and Early Career Fellows. She was also a recipient of the Buell Award.