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You’re never far from a parasite, no matter where you are. They’re responsible for illnesses like malaria that cause death around much of the world; the word itself is a derogatory term for something freeloading and disgusting.

They’re also very important to the health of ecosystems.

Parasite ecologist and University of Washington associate professor Chelsea Wood makes her case for parasite conservation, and why they’re actually beautiful, complex forms of life that need to be protected.