A bat ecologist in the era of pandemics
Writing > Profile
Institution: Emory University
Title of entry: A bat ecologist in the era of pandemics
About this entry: Shaped by a childhood in a Costa Rican rainforest, Amanda Vicente grew into a scientist focused on the disease ecology of bats. Now a graduate student at Emory University, she leads other students on research expeditions to her native country. She heads an ambitious project to bridge the complexities of bat behaviors with knowledge of how human encroachment on natural habitats affects bats’ health — and their potential to spread pathogens. The global pandemic of COVID-19, caused by a novel coronavirus believed to have originated in bats in China, makes her work all the more urgent. Vicente is a 90-pound dynamo who treks for hours through dense forest with scientific and camping equipment on her back to reach isolated bat caves. She teaches other students about the importance of bat ecology and the health of forests — not just for wildlife but for human lives as well. And she inspires them to go beyond doing the science to also educate the public. As Vicente explains, it’s important for people to understand that our enemies are not the bats, but the pathogens.