In 2017, three years before the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, three Princeton researchers convened to investigate the links between infectious diseases and climate change.
Professors Jessica Metcalf, Bryan Grenfell and Gabe Vecchi wanted to know how the spread of disease is impacted by extreme weather events, climate migration, population demographics and density. They realized this big, critical question would require expertise from across disciplines – in demography, infectious disease, epidemiology and climate science. In this vein, the researchers are currently investigating several topics, including how humidity levels and a warmer atmosphere affect the transmission of respiratory diseases, and how wetter storms impact the behavior and location of disease vectors like mosquitos.
“We can predict the next pandemic – but it will require vast amounts of data and vast amounts of insight to manage this,” said Metcalf, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs and co-director of Program in Global Health and Health Policy at Princeton.