Eco-immunology and context-specific immunology

How is the immune system shaped and how does it operate in natural settings, as opposed to under the highly controlled laboratory conditions required for mechanistic immunological research?

Our fundamental questions revolve around understanding why immune responses to the same antigenic exposure vary between individuals. One important concept is the idea of the immune trade off. Investing in an immune response comes at a cost.

This cost has to be balanced against other important life events such as growth and reproduction in the face of simultaneous, and varied, extrinsic challenges (for example infections, pollution, changes in diet). Further, this balance will differ between individuals and within an individual over time and space and consequently, the optimal immune response to mount at any one time is highly context dependent.

Understanding the impact of different (and combinations of) variables on how the immune system operates will bring benefits to multiple fields including public health, animal health, wildlife management and conservation.