They’re called cowboys, but you won’t find them astride a horse rounding up stray cattle. They are scientists—dubbed disease cowboys—who search for the cause when unknown diseases break out in remote locales.
Ian Buller, a CU-Boulder senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, has his sights set on being one of these daring “disease cowboys” and to specialize in disease ecology, specifically identifying and studying disease emergence and designing control programs.
Forensic scientists may soon have a valuable new item in their tool kits—a way to identify individuals using unique, telltale types of hand bacteria left behind on objects such as keyboards and computer mice, according to a new CU-Boulder study.
“On one hand, I’m gonna tell you, ‘This is no big deal, bark beetles have been around for 35 million years, conifers have been around for a lot longer than that, and bark beetles have been killing conifers for 35 million years. There have been epidemics every 30 to 70 years. This is no big deal.’
“Then, on the other hand, I’m gonna tell you, ‘Holy smokes guys, this has never been seen before. Yes, it’s an epidemic, yes, epidemics are natural, but never has there been an epidemic like this as far as biologists have been able to look into the past.”