Nathan Wolfe – 2012
The world’s foremost hunter of dangerous microbes visited Beloit in 2012 to receive the Roy Chapman Andrews Society’s Distinguished Explorer Award.
Dr. Nathan Wolfe, founder and CEO of Global Viral Forecasting, discussed his globetrotting research and discoveries during the award presentation on Friday, February 3, 2012, in Eaton Chapel on the Beloit College campus. Earlier that day, Dr. Wolfe discussed his work with area youth in an assembly at Beloit Memorial High School.
Microbes – tiny viruses and germs – are everywhere. But the truly harmful ones, like those that cause AIDS and bird flu, can be difficult to find. New viruses that cause disease outbreaks can emerge almost anywhere in the world. That’s why Dr. Wolfe has set up research and monitoring programs in 23 countries, collected more than 100,000 specimens, and identified numerous previously unknown microbes.
Dr. Wolfe explores for harmful viruses in remote places and uses his field sites around the world as “listening posts” to try to intercept viruses before they spread widely. Many viruses, like HIV and influenza, jumped from animals to humans, so Dr. Wolfe works in villages whose inhabitants rely on wild game, or bushmeat, for protein. When hunters contact animal fluids during butchering, it makes them especially vulnerable to hosting new microbes. By collecting thousands of blood samples, hunters are important allies for studying emerging diseases.
In his new book, The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age, Dr. Wolfe draws on firsthand knowledge from over a decade of virus hunting. Viruses may emerge from far-flung places, but Dr. Wolfe also shows that modern transportation networks help microbes spread faster than ever. There is hope, though: Dr. Wolfe envisions predicting and preventing future outbreaks by combining technology with boots-on-the-ground natural science, aiming to catch viruses before they become world travelers. For that reason, Dr. Wolfe says The Viral Storm is written for anyone who “kisses their children goodbye on their way off to school.”
Dr. Wolfe has degrees in human biology, biological anthropology, and immunology and infectious disease from Harvard University and Stanford University. He has been a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University and UCLA, and is now a visiting professor of human biology at Stanford in addition to directing Global Virus Forecasting.
The program featuring Dr. Wolfe was the tenth Distinguished Explorer Award event of the Beloit-based Roy Chapman Andrews Society, in association with Beloit College. Founded in 1998, the Society’s mission is to honor the legacy of one of the most celebrated explorers of the 20th century by educating the public about Andrews’s life, work, and adventures; promoting the value of scientific exploration and discovery; and emphasizing Andrews’s lifetime ties to Beloit.
Nathan Wolfe Media Mentions:
The Man Who Tracks Viruses Before They Spread – NPR Books “Fresh Air” interview by Terry Gross.
Dr. Nathan Wolfe hunts viruses to prevent pandemic – San Francisco Chronicle ~ Sunday February 19, 2012
[Story by William Green of Beloit College and Sarah Jane Keller of the Stanford News Service]
TED Talks— Nathan Wolfe: What’s left to explore?
Nathan Wolfe: What’s left to explore?