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06/02/2022 - 06/02/2022 | Erkner

Pandemic Influenzas: Space, Genetics, and Landscapes

Public Online Keynote Lecture by Prof. Dr. Michael Emch, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Part of the IRS Spring Academy 2022: Investigating Space(s): Current Theoretical and Methodological Approaches: Part 5 – Spaces of Infection

Influenza viruses are responsible for substantial human morbidity and mortality and continue to present a public health challenge. In addition to humans, influenza viruses can infect birds, pigs, horses, dogs, sea mammals, and other animal species. It has been proposed that pigs are intermediate host “mixing vessels” that generate pandemic influenza strains through genetic reassortment among avian, swine, and/or human influenza viruses. The genesis and emergence of highly transmissible pandemic viruses is complicated and protracted, requiring multiple reassortment events and mutations across years as seen with the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. Since 2009, novel swine influenza arising from reassortment between the emerging 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus and enzootic swine influenza viruses have frequently been detected in swine populations worldwide, most noticeably in China and the US. A number of these novel swine influenza viruses have caused sporadic spillovers to humans and there is a fear that another influenza pandemic may occur. Although evolutionary events (i.e., reassortment and mutations) have been readily documented, it is not yet clear which are typical, which are atypical, which evolutionary events for these influenza viruses increase threats to human and animal health, and which ecological and evolutionary principals are driving such events. This lecture presents how landscape genetics and medical geography theories and methods can be used to conduct studies of how human–environment interactions influence pathogenic characteristics. The case of swine influenza is offered as an example.

Prof. Dr. Michael Emch is W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Geography and Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). He is a member of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Ecology Lab at UNC and he leads the Spatial Health Research Group. He has published more than 180 papers and two books mostly on infectious diseases including cholera, malaria, respiratory infections, tuberculosis, and COVID-19. He has received more than 20 million dollars in research grants to study diverse topics such as the role of population-environment drivers in pathogen evolution, how social connectivity contributes to disease incidence, and using environmental indicators to predict infectious disease outbreaks. He has served on panels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Academy of Sciences and he has given many speeches on infectious diseases at institutions in more than 20 countries including the United States Senate.

The keynote is one of two public lectures during the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space's IRS Spring Academy 2022. The IRS Spring Academy is a yearly format similar to a PhD summer school but, as the name suggests, taking place in spring. It is an international and interdisciplinary format that provides spots for 25 participants, typically doctoral students but also post-doctoral researchers in the early phase of their careers. The overarching aim of the IRS Spring Academy is to support qualification projects which seek to explore the spatial dimension of societally relevant topics. In particular we seek to stimulate debates at the intersections of disciplines and seek to promote academics who wish to conduct research with a spatial perspective. The IRS Spring Academy is dedicated to stimulate conceptual debates around a spatial perspective and to support new methodological knowledge that is required to conduct the related empirical investigations. Moreover, the IRS Spring Academy is a brokerage event that supports participants to build up personal networks and it provides feedback from acknowledged seniors for researchers at the early stage of their careers.

Information on participating / attending:
Participation is free of charge. Please note that the time is 9 AM UTC+1

Register here for the public lecture via Zoom


06/02/2022 09:00 - 06/02/2022 11:00

Registration deadline:


Event venue:

Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space


Target group:

Journalists, Scientists and scholars



Subject areas:

Environment / ecology, Medicine

Types of events:

Conference / symposium / (annual) conference, Presentation / colloquium / lecture, Seminar / workshop / discussion




Dr. Felix Müller


Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit

Event is free:


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