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Sarah Bush

Associate Professor


Graduate Program Membership:

Office/Building: ASB 562A
Phone: 801-587-9614; 801-633-8629
Email: bush@biology.utah.edu
Clayton/Bush Lab: http://darwin.biology.utah.edu/

Research Statement


Parasites represent as many as half of all species of organisms on Earth. This rich diversity is driven, in part, by host specificity. Most parasites are host specific, and some parasites are so specific that they only infest only one host species. Intriguingly, however, host specificity is in constant flux. Parasites can, and do, switch to new host species. In fact, one study estimates that as many as 61% of the parasites/pathogens affecting humans have zoonotic origins. Furthermore, human introductions of plants and animals into new geographic regions have exposed wildlife to new parasites/pathogens that may ultimately threaten the conservation of global biodiversity. My research focuses on the evolutionary ecology of host-parasite interactions. In particular, I am interested in using macroevolutionary information for hosts and their co-evolving parasites to generate testable hypotheses about ecological factors determining host-specificity.

Research Interests


General Interests
Specific Interests
  • Systematics
  • Evolution of host-specificity
  • Host-parasite interactions
  • Parasite community ecology

Selected Publications


  • Clayton, D. H., S. E. Bush and K. P. Johnson. 2016. Coevolution of life on hosts: integrating ecology and history. University of Chicago Press. Chicago University Press
  • Harnos, A., Z. Lang, D. Petr�s, S. E. Bush, and L. R�zsa. 2017. An evolutionary allometry of bird and louse (Phthiraptera) body sizes: comparative tests controlled for host, rather than parasite phylogeny. Evolution 71: 421-431.
  • Villa SM, Campbell HE, Bush SE and Clayton DH. 2016. Does anti-parasite behavior improve with experience? An experimental test of the priming hypothesis. Behavioral Ecology doi:10.1093/beheco/arw032.
  • Bartlow A, Villa SM, Thompson MW and Bush SE. 2016. Walk or ride? Phoretic behavior of amblyceran and ischnoceran lice. International Journal of Parasitology 46: 221-227.
  • Bush, S. E., J. D. Weckstein, D. R. Gustafsson, J. Allen, E. DiBlasi, S. M. Shreve, R. Boldt, H. R. Skeen, and K. P. Johnson. 2016. Unlocking the black box of feather louse diversity: a molecular phylogeny of the hyper-diverse genus Brueelia. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 94: 737-751. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2015.09.015
  • Bush, S. E., J. D. Weckstein, D. R. Gustafsson, J. Allen, E. DiBlasi, S. M. Shreve, R. Boldt, H. R. Skeen, and K. P. Johnson. 2015. Data supporting a molecular phylogeny of the hyper-diverse genus Brueelia. Data in Brief 5: 1078-1091. doi:10.1016/j.dib.2015.10.022

Courses Taught


  • 5555: Ecology and Evolution of Parasites and Pathogens