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Luis E. Escobar

A key component of my research is developing theory and methods to study the biogeography of infectious diseases. I apply these to disease biogeography, disease ecology, and invasion biology. My work includes field and laboratory studies, and data analysis. Thanks to my past and current collaborations I have a broad academic network. Working as part of multidisciplinary teams and strong interests in understanding the ecology of diseases are the base of my research. I believe in big collaborative research, so please contact me if you want to develop a fun project with us.

When I am not doing science I enjoy reading, swimming, and doing outdoor activities. I also love cooking Guatemalan food and taking care of the garden. 

Graduate Students

Paige Van de Vuurst (MSc Student)

In 2016 I graduated from Samford University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a Minor in Environmental Studies. After obtaining my degree I joined the United States Peace Corps, where I served as an education and health volunteer in Tanzania for three years.


My research interests include ecology, zoology, primatology, predator-prey relationships, and the spatiotemporal distribution of diseases and how this affects wildlife. I have been fortunate in my life work with a wide variety of taxa within a plethora of different projects, and believe that education, collaboration, and communication lay at the core of what it means to be a scientist. Outside of work I enjoy writing, hiking, scuba diving, and my beautiful dog Dani 


Diego Soler-Tovar 

(PhD Student)

Diego Soler-Tovar is Doctor of Veterinary Medicine with a MSc in Animal Health focused on microbiology and epidemiology from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and is PhD student in population medicine and public health at the Universidad de La Salle. Diego is Assistant Professor in the Facultad de Ciencias Agropecuarias. His teaching and research are in the areas of epidemiology, food security, public health, zoonoses, and vector-borne diseases.

 Diego curently coordinates the One Health Student Club at La Salle University and is Editor for the scientific journal Revista de Medicina Veterinaria. He is active member of the Wildlife Disease Association (WDA), WDA-Latin America section, IUCN SSC Wildlife Health Specialist Group, Latin America Network of Disease Ecology (REEL), Latin America Network for One Health, and the Colombia Network for One Health. Diego's PhD studies include Dr. Escobar as his thesis advisor to study the biogeographic ecology of vampire rabies.    

Mariana Castaneda-Guzman

(MSc Student)

I graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Systems Engineering with a concentration in Data Analytics. Having studied and lived both in Guatemala and in the United States has allowed me to be more open to the opportunities available. I am interested in machine learning, big data, and different methods of optimization applied to ecosystem health. I am skilled in a vast array of programming and system modeling software. As a current intern at Escobar's lab, I have polished my skills in the statistical analyses on infectious diseases research that have resulted in two manuscripts (e.g., rabies and dengue). In my free time, I enjoy baking and cake decorating to express my creative side.




Undergraduate Research Students

Caroline S. Ilse

I am an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech, and I will be graduating in May of 2021. I am a
Wildlife Conservation major with a Sustainability minor. I am interested in working at a zoo doing animal husbandry and research once I graduate. I find wildlife disease and animal husbandry to be some of the most important topics and issues in the wildlife and human world. Outside of school, I like to play tennis, go on outdoor adventures, read a good murder mystery, watch The Walking Dead, and bake.

Abigail Parch

I am an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech majoring in Wildlife Conservation and minoring in Psychology.  After I graduate in May 2021, I will be pursuing a career in exotic animal husbandry and conservation education.  Some of the topics I find most interesting related to my intended career field are disease ecology and the relationship between humans and animals.  When I am not studying I enjoy photography, baking, hiking, and playing with my pets.

Tabatha Gentry

I am a senior undergraduate at Virginia Tech studying Biological Sciences and Biodiversity Conservation. After graduating in May 2021 I plan to pursue a masters degree and continue research in the realm of wildlife disease. My love for wildlife stems from my passion for Otters that started at just five years old.

Alma Talcott 

I am senior undergrad majoring in Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech. After graduating in May 2021, I plan to pursue a career managing invasive species or wildlife diseases. I think the research would be extremely interesting because of how unique and dynamic these threats to wildlife are. My interest was stimulated while I was volunteering at my local wildlife refuge during the summers of 2018 and 2019 and learning about tree of heaven in its native range vs its non-native range. I became interested in wildlife diseases when I learned about the threats to sustainability and the conservation of endangered species. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, playing Sudoku, watching anime, and birding.

Victorjose Catalan

Victorjose Catalan is a Junior from Bethesda Maryland, majoring in Wildlife Conservation and minoring in Pathways to Sustainability at Virginia Tech. Planning to pursue a graduate degree after completing his undergraduate degree, and seeking a career as a research scientist or research associate in the future. Victorjose an enthusiastic and passionate worker, volunteering to assist in assessing the effects of climate change on disease ecology, through literature review and scoping research. With the goal of identifying gaps in the scientific publications of climates' effects of the spread of vector borne disease and the disparity between taxa research. In his free time he enjoys being outdoors, hiking, bird watching, or drawing.

David Treanor

Currently, I am an undergraduate senior majoring in Wildlife Conservation. I became interested in wildlife disease while studying at Virginia Tech and I hope to pursue a degree in that field at graduate school and beyond. I have also participated in various extracurricular activities; I am a member of the Skeet and Trap Club at Virginia Tech (VTCT) and the Ducks Unlimited Chapter. I have also been working with Luis Escobar and Paige Van De Vuurst on a disease ecology project pertaining to global warming for a year. On my free time, I can be found in the woods birding, hunting, hiking, or fishing. I also loves taking care of pet herptiles and wish to own various species, currently I only own a Leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius) named Charmander. 

Visiting Scholars

Ana Cifuentes

Ana is a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Zoothecny from Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia (2014), MSc of Genetics and Animal Improvement from Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho, Brazil (2016). She has experience in conservation genetics with applications to the phylogeography of ungulates. She has served as lecturer at the Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia and the Universidad del Tolima, Colombia. Ana has conducted research and mentored students in the areas of wildlife management and conservation and human-wildlife conflicts of the Andean Bear. Her experience includes environmental education, restoration, and wildlife epidemiology. She is currently interested in disease ecology and global change.

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