Area of Expertise
An environmental engineer with a focus on public health, Tara took on the role of course director for the MSc Environmental Engineering in 2019. She has expertise in environmental management, particularly surface water, solid waste management, and she also runs the departments only dedicated public health module, which introduces students from a non-health background to the fundamental issues around public health. Her research revolves around providing the scientific evidence of environmental risk to public health and eliciting behavioural change towards health enhancement. Much of her research has been based in Malawi delivering public health interventions. She is part of a multidisciplinary research team who have just been awarded £3million by the National Institute for Health Research to set up a Global Health Research Group on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing which will be located in Malawi.
Ecology of Legionella species in compost environments - Legionnaires’ disease is a severe pneumonia caused by Legionella, usually Legionella pneumophila associated with contaminated aerosols from water systems, e.g. air conditioning, water cooling towers. However, in recent years several cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Scotland, caused by Legionella longbeachae have been linked to compost; most recently 4 cases occurring in Lothian have been reported in the media. The ecology of these organisms within compost is largely unknown. Studies have included work on: the presence of Legionella species in compost commercially available in the UK; the effect of greenhouse storage on Legionella survival in compost; the influence of free-living amoeba, particularly Acanthamoeba species, on Legionella ecology. See See Legionella spp. in UK composts – a potential public health issue
Scotland Chikhwawa Health Initiative – Funding through the Scottish Government International Development fund (2013-2016) is enabling the implementation of a Healthy Settings Programme in the Chikwawa district of Malawi. Healthy Settings aims to achieve healthy communities by not only addressing access to curative health services, but concentrating on the environmental, sociological and economic determinants for health in the home, school and work environments using a community led approach. The programme will be implemented in a cluster of 18 communities, 6 schools, 5 markets and a health centre in Chikhwawa to support the District Health Office to reduce risks to health in vulnerable communities. Community development through Healthy Settings has to come from the community itself and therefore the approach focuses on supporting and facilitating a community profiling process and the development of action plans by community members to give local solutions to health issues. In doing so we hope to ensure sustained change and improvement. For further information see an Overview of the Scotland Chikhwawa Health Initiative 2013 - 2016
Ocular infection - specifically keratitis caused by the free-living protozoa Acanthamoeba, and the association with contact lenses; much of this work has focused on newer generation silicone hydrogel lenses. Studies have included work on: The effect lens material has on Acanthamoebal attachement to contact lenses; the efficacy of contact lens disinfection solutions against Acanthamoeba; Potential new drugs for the treatment of ocular infection with Acanthamoeba; isolation and molecular typing of clinical and environmental isolates of Acanthamoeba.
Current Research Students
- Sandra Currie (primary supervisor) – Ecology of Legionella species in compost
- Sarah Rippon (secondary supervisor) - Measuring the Impact of Health Settings Approach in Malawi
- Neil Pratt (secondary supervisor) – Automated HACCP systems in small scale environments
- Ansley Kasambara (secondary supervisor) - Maternal Health Data Consitency and Management: A Longitudinal Study in Chikhwawa District
- Becky Laidlaw (second supervisor) - use of mHealth in health promotion programmes