Research on climate change integrates multiple disciplines

TDR news item
20 July 2015

Work to identify ways that African countries can prepare for the impacts of environmental and climate change is creating new approaches that bring multiple disciplines together. Researchers in geoinformatics, meteorology, entomology and infectious diseases came together recently in Geneva to review progress of a major project helping communities build resilience against diseases like malaria and schistosomiasis.


Poor communities reliant on crops and livestock can see their livelihoods and food security wrecked by unexpected climate variabilities. Rains may increase the numbers of mosquitoes that carry malaria or increase the occurrence of tsetse flies that transmit trypanosomiasis in cattle which then can increase the risk of people also being infected.

The researchers are looking at environmental changes, including land use change and water resources, and how these changes affect the diseases. The complexity of the issues that come from this blend of social, cultural, biological and meteorological impacts requires a transdisciplinary approach, said Professor Bruce Wilcox from Mahidol University in Thailand. “Scientists are working in teams and integrating their approaches and findings,” he explained.

The work is being carried out in 7 African countries (Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mauritania, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe). Teams presented progress on their field work and discussed new approaches that merge health and environmental data. Dr Pietro Ceccato of The Earth Institute at Columbia University in the U.S., and one of the experts working with the researchers, showed remote sensing applications that can compare real-time and historical data on temperature and rainfall with the incidence of these vector-borne diseases.

The 3-year research project is starting its final year of activities. It is being done in collaboration with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the World Health Organization’s Department for Public Health and Environment, the African Regional Office’s Programme for the Protection of Human Environment, and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University, New York (USA).

For more information on this research, contact Bernadette Ramirez.