At Ben-Gurion, Dr. Hasik continues to bring an evolutionary perspective to the study of parasites. He is experimenting in rodent communities with multiple strains of the globally distributed bacterium Bartonella, a parasite with the potential to act as a pathogen transmitted from animals to humans. His experiments examine the trait of evolvability, that is, an organism’s ability to produce novel variation, which can evolve over time. Evolvability is a critical trait in a pathogen because it may determine the pathogen’s ability to invade new hosts, including humans, and to develop new traits, including resistance to antibiotics.
Dr. Hasik seeks to determine whether simultaneous infection of a host by multiple Bartonella species will increase or decrease pathogen evolvability. At present there are two solid and contrasting evolutionary theories about this question, but there is no experimental evidence supporting either theory. Dr. Hasik’s research will clarify the emerging potential of Bartonella as a pathogen, and could also have wide-ranging implications for our understanding of host-pathogen evolution in nature.
Dr. Hasik is committed to translating scientific discoveries to a broader, non-scientific audience. He authors a website called Ecology for the Masses, which presents and explains ecology research and issues, and hosts a podcast called Cinematica Animalia, which breaks down the science of movie monsters. He has also been involved in efforts to teach hands-on scientific techniques to elementary school students.