Infectious diseases have been a prime testing ground for ecological theory. However, the ecological perspective is increasingly recognized as essential in epidemiology. Long-term, spatially resolved reliable data on disease incidence and the ability to test them using mechanistic models have been critical in this cross-fertilization. Here, we review some of the key intellectual developments in epidemiology facilitated by long-term data. We identify research frontiers at the interface of ecology and epidemiology and their associated data needs.