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Sarah Knutie, Ph.D. - University of Connecticut. Storrs, CT, US

Sarah Knutie, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor | University of Connecticut


Professor Knutie focuses on host-parasite systems


Knutie is an Assistant Professor whose research spans both fundamental and applied ideas in ecology, particularly with host-parasite systems. She received her PhD from the University of Utah with Dale Clayton in 2014 where she studied invasive disease ecology. Her dissertation explored the effect of an introduced parasitic nest fly Philornis downsi on birds in the Galapagos, how birds defend themselves against P. downsi (Knutie et al. Ecology), and why P. downsi is widespread in the Galapagos (Knutie et al. Ecosphere). She also established a method ('self-fumigation') for controlling the fly in bird nests (Knutie et al. Current Biology). During her post-doc in Jason Rohr's lab at the University of South Florida, she explored the role of host-associated microbiota in disease ecology (Knutie et al. Nature Communications). She is particularly interested in whether the early-life microbiota of hosts mediate the effect of environmental factors (e.g. pollution, climate change, resource availability) on disease risk. She also has a passion for teaching, especially when she can incorporate a hands-on field component, and mentors an amazing group of female scientists. Google Scholar Page

Areas of Expertise (3)

Invasive Species

Parasite manipulation of host behavior

Parasite Interactions

Education (1)

University of Utah: Ph.D.


Media Appearances (4)

Tadpole's gut microbiome can predict a frog's health

United Press International  online


"Our study found that a disruption of bacteria in tadpoles has enduring negative effects on how adult frogs deal with their parasite," Sarah Knutie, a biologist. "These results suggest that preventing early-life disruptions of bacteria by factors such as nutrition, antibiotics and pollution, might confer protection against diseases later in life."

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Scientists help Galapagos finches combat killer maggots

Reuters  online

Finding a method to control the flies has become a top priority for scientists studying the Galapagos birds. “There are currently no methods to effectively combat the parasite,” said Sarah Knutie, one of the researchers.

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Saving Darwin's finches from blood-sucking parasites

The Guardian  online

Earlier this month, a study by Sarah Knutie tested an ingenious way to get finches to fumigate their own nests. They set up dispensers for cotton laced with insecticide, which the birds incorporated into their nests, protecting them from infestation.

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Darwin's finches face extinction within decades because of parasitic flies on Galapagos Islands

International Business Times  online

The birds that helped inspire the theory of evolution could go extinct in just decades, scientists have warned. Researchers say Darwin's finches could be wiped out by parasitic flies that arrived on the islands in the 1960s in as little as 50 years.

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Articles (3)

Early-life disruption of amphibian microbiota decreases later-life resistance to parasites

Nature Communications

Sarah A Knutie, Christina L Wilkinson, Kevin D Kohl, Jason R Rohr

2017 Changes in the early-life microbiota of hosts might affect infectious disease risk throughout life, if such disruptions during formative times alter immune system development. Here, we test whether an early-life disruption of host-associated microbiota affects later-life resistance to infections by manipulating the microbiota of tadpoles and challenging them with parasitic gut worms as adults. We find that tadpole bacterial diversity is negatively correlated with parasite establishment in adult frogs: adult frogs that had reduced bacterial diversity as tadpoles have three times more worms than adults without their microbiota manipulated as tadpoles...

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Host resistance and tolerance of parasitic gut worms depend on resource availability


Sarah A Knutie, Christina L Wilkinson, Qiu Chang Wu, C Nicole Ortega, Jason R Rohr

2017 Resource availability can significantly alter host–parasite dynamics. Abundant food can provide more resources for hosts to resist infections, but also increase host tolerance of infections by reducing competition between hosts and parasites for food. Whether abundant food favors host resistance or tolerance (or both) might depend on the type of resource that the parasite exploits (e.g., host tissue vs. food), which can vary based on the stage of infection...

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Tri-trophic ecology of native parasitic nest flies of birds in Tobago


Sarah A Knutie, Jordan M Herman, Jeb P Owen, Dale H Clayton

2017 Introduced parasites threaten host populations around the world. For example, introduced parasitic nest flies (Philornis downsi) have contributed to the decline of several species of Darwin's finches in the Galápagos Islands. Introduced parasites are thought to have severe effects on native hosts because the hosts do not have effective defenses against such parasites and/or because introduced parasites have escaped the native enemies that keep their own populations in check...

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