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James Lester BA (Hons)

James Lester BA (Hons)

PhD student

Investigating patterns of human and non-human primate disease in Western Uganda within an area of high human-wildlife conflict


By background, I am a biologist with a great deal of interest in infectious disease, and this interest heavily influenced me throughout my undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences (Biological) here at the University of Cambridge. Over the course of my degree, and somewhat unconventionally for a biologist, I developed an increasing interest in disease modelling, and through work within and outside of my degree course have been able to gain skills in this area. Whilst this past work has been largely theoretical, I am very interested in applying these techniques to real-world situations, and particularly the unique complexity of human populations, where understanding interactions between social, spatial and disease factors can be crucial.


  • Emerging Disease Transmission in Western Uganda – PhD - 2012-present
  • BA in Natural Sciences (Biological) – University of Cambridge – 2009-2012


  • BA in Natural Sciences (Biological) – University of Cambridge - 2009-2012


My PhD research concerns the investigation of patterns of disease within human and non-human primate populations at a known zoonotic interface (the edge of Kibale National Park in Western Uganda), with particular focus upon the role of patterns of contact within each of these populations. As such, one half of my work concerns both implementing systems for, and analysing the outcomes of syndromic surveillance within human populations in order to improve and develop novel surveillance approaches. This has included fieldwork to implement a Raspberry Pi-based platform for distributed participatory syndromic surveillance, to illustrate its capacity to collect distributed reports in a way far more efficient and timely than paper-based surveys previously employed at the field site. Alongside this, I have performed extensive analytical work upon these syndromic reports, which originate from both from my own study and pre-existing datasets from the Kibale Ecohealth Project. These range from Bayesian cluster analyses to spatiotemporal analyses on the basis of these cluster designations.

The other half of my work is concerned with the analysis of non-human primate viral infection, and in particular answering epidemiological questions with respect to these viruses. This work concerns red colobus (Procolobus tephrosceles) living within Kibale National Park, and combines layers of viral genomic, demographic and behavioural data to offer new insight into patterns of infection, coinfection, and transmission for the viruses considered.