EARLIER EVENTS :: 2013 :: Plenaries

Six Blind Researchers and the Study of Anthrax in Etosha National Park

Presented by Wayne M. Getz

Wayne M. Getz, 
A. Starker Leopold Professor of Wildlife Ecology, University of California at Berkeley
School of Mathematics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Date: 27th September, 2013
Time: 10:50 A.M
In the Buddhist scripture, the Udana 68-69, a parable is told of blind servants of a certain raja describing an elephant. In different versions of the parable, the elephant is described variously as six or even nine different things, including a pillar, a winnowing basket, a ploughshare, and a rope.  The Jain’s use this parable to teach their adherents that human perception is limited, with only omniscient beings able to fully comprehend reality.  In my talk, I will examine this parable in the context of studies of epidemics caused by pathogens that have an environmental reservoir component.  I will cast the parable in the context of six blind researchers in the roles of an epidemiologist, a microbiologist, an immunologist, a geneticist, an ecologist, and an evolutionary biologist.  I will present data from the recent literature to assess the extent to which researchers in each are blind to the other areas of research.  I will then present the studies of my research group over the past five years in the context of the above six fields and how they each provide different, but complementary views of anthrax epidemiology in zebra, elephant and springbok in Etosha National Park, Nambia.