Robert G. Wallace

Public health phylogeographer

Visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of Geography of the University of Minnesota. His current research interest, in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, is the phylogeography of bird flu.

Like many of his fellow native New Yorkers, he first learned his geography in the streets: grid system, subway maps, and a hierarchy of regional allegiances, including block, neighbourhood, borough, and city. He subsequently earned his bachelors at SUNY Binghamton and a doctorate in biology at the CUNY Graduate Center.

He describes himself as a public health phylogeographer. He uses genetic sequences to track the evolution of infectious diseases over geographic space. In addition to the H5N1 project, Rob has also mapped out a sociogeography of AIDS incidence in New York City, showing declines in AIDS cases to be associated with a complex of variables including income, etnicity, community-level stress, and neighbourhood histories. With matrix population modelling Rob has explored the evolution of HIV life history in response to public health interventions, including antiretrovirals. He has developed methodologies for tracking the deep-time phylogeographic coevolution of Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus and human populations in Uganda.

He has published in journals as disparate as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Social Science and Medicine, Ecological Modelling, and the Journal of the National Medical Association. With his parents, he has a book coming out next year, to be published by Springer, on farming human pathogens.