Cylita Guy

Cylita and her first bat!

Location: No fixed address, Earth Sciences Centre


University of Toronto (2014-present)
PhD Student
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Honours BSc, Animal Physiology and Biodiversity & Conservation Biology, University of Toronto (2010-2014)

Research Interests

Bubonic plague, Spanish Influenza, AIDS, Ebola. These four disease demonstrate how deadly zoonotic pathogens can be. I like to think of zoonoses as species jumping pathogens, diseases that leap from animals into humans. The wildlife species that these pathogens leap from are termed reservoir species, animals that act as long term natural hosts for these microbes. Broadly, I am interested in trying to understand reservoir species and the traits that make them ideally suited to carry zoonotic diseases. More specifically, I study bats.

In recent decades, bats have been implicated in a large number of zoonotic emergence events, carrying pathogens such as: Rabies, Nipah, Hendra, Marburg, SARS, possibly Ebola, and a variety of other novel viral strains with zoonotic potential. Bats often host a large diversity of viruses, yet incur no apparent cost. For my PhD I plan to use a combination of cross-species comparisons, mathematical modelling, and surveys of natural populations to try and understand why it is that bats seem to be so good at carrying so many diseases. This understanding is particularly pertinent. Zoonotic emergence is on the rise and given than humans continue to alter habitat and bring themselves into closer contact with wildlife, this trend is likely to continue. Understanding the traits that make bats ideal suited to act as zoonotic reservoirs and that may facilitate spillover, is an important first step in eventually allowing us to develop ecologically sound mitigation strategies that both prevent and control zoonotic emergence events, but also preserve reservoir species vital to the proper functioning of our ecosystems.