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Group photo from the PRAGMATICK workshop
Workshop report: Evolutionary biology meets sustainability in practice

Report by Lynn Chiu

Theoretically, emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), infectious diseases novel to a population, an area or exhibiting novel symptoms, should be rare. For pathogens to invade and infect novel hosts, it is generally assumed that they would need to first acquire novel, functional genetic mutations, which, in turn, are rare, unpredictable events. Yet EIDs have become a wide-scale and increasingly prevalent threat for all nations, further exacerbated by climate change, globalization, urbanization, and human expansion. There is thus a dire need to better understand the underlying causes and how we can mitigate—perhaps even prevent—EIDs. However, the prevailing assumptions imply that such occurrences are nearly impossible to anticipate. We are doomed to retroactively reacting to emerging diseases again and again, at greater and greater costs.

Perhaps we have just been extremely unlucky with a string of emerging infectious diseases.
Or perhaps, more likely, we are thinking about EIDs in the wrong way.

The Stockholm Paradigm is an evolutionary conceptual framework developed by evolutionary biologists and ecologists (including Daniel R. Brooks, Walter A. Boeger, Eric P. Hoberg, and Salvatore Agosta) to better understand the evolution of pathogen-host systems. A central message is that climate change— and the resultant population migrations and encounters— is a major trigger of zoonosis and emerging infectious diseases. After decades of theoretical development, the PRAGMATICK COST Action program seeks to apply the Stockholm Paradigm and its policy extension, the DAMA (Document, Assess, Monitor, Act) protocol to help anticipate, prevent, and mitigate diseases spread through ticks and tick-borne pathogens.

KLI alumna Orsolya Bajer-Molnár, who has long advocated for and worked on the Stockholm Paradigm and the DAMA protocol, and KLI fellow Marina Knickel, who works on the nature of science-society transdisciplinary collaborations, took part in PRAGMATICK’s first action group workshop in Budapest “Stockholm Paradigm, DAMA protocol and citizen science: applications for the PRAGMATICK COST Action.” Their common concern is how transdisciplinary approaches and collaborations, such as living labs and citizen science projects, can constitute a central component of the DAMA protocol.

The productive collaboration between an evolutionary biologist (Bajer-Molnár) and a sustainability scholar (Knickel) is an unusual combination, made possible due to their fellowships coinciding at the KLI, a theory lab and node for interdisciplinary encounters. Their participation at the workshop follows hot on the heels of their new publication with coauthor Christine Marizzi on evolution-guided preventive policies and strategies at global, regional, and local scales.


You can watch their PRAGMATICK talks here:

Orsolya Bajer-Molnar: All Hands on Deck: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Coping with Emerging Infectious Diseases (slides)



Marina Knickel: Navigating science-society collaboration: lessons learned from Living Labs (slides)


Related publications:

Orsolya Molnár, Marina Knickel, Christine Marizzi. Taking Action - Turning Evolutionary Theory into Preventive Policies. Authorea. September 23, 2022.
DOI: 10.22541/au.166377827.70001295/v2