Research Projects

Bat-borne rabies

The situation of rabies in the America is complex: rabies in dogs has decreased dramatically, but bats are increasingly recognized as natural reservoirs of other rabies lineages. We are exploring the ecology of rabies at fine and coarse scales to understand how changes in landscape and climate can facilitate outbreaks in new regions and species. 

Disease-biodiversity relationships

We are exploring the ecosystem services of biodiversity for the reduction of the burden of specific infectious diseases. We are using theory and methods from ecology, evolutionary biology, mathematics, statistics, and economics.

Fish health and epidemiology

​​We are working to understand the geography of fish kills and fish epidemics in marine and freshwater fishes.

Our efforts include the use of satellite-derived data, citizen science, and ecological niche modeling.


We are investigating the causes and consequences of mange in wildlife populations. Mange has become an excellent model to understand parasite spillover in the host species and spread in new geographic areas. We are using mange to study host-parasite dynamics, and biogeography of infectious diseases. Our efforts include assessing the phylogeography of mange and the understanding of the biotic and abiotic factors facilitating mange outbreaks in wildlife around the world.


Chronic Wasting Disease

CWD is a neurodegenerative prion disease of cervids. It is currently affecting populations in North America, Europe, and Asia. CWD has been proposed as a model to understand neurodegenerative diseases in humans. We are exploring the biogeography and epidemiology of CWD in wild populations in North America. Our goal is also to forecast areas and human and animal populations at risk of prion exposure.

Climate Change and Health

Current research efforts also include the reconstruction of the distribution of infectious diseases under past and future climate change conditions. Our study models include bat-borne rabies across Latin America, vector-borne diseases across elevational gradients, and water-borne diseases across marine ecosystems. Our previous research includes the effects of climate change in ocean waters as an accelerator of cholera outbreaks in coastal areas around the world (Escobar et al. 2015), macroecological assessments of potential climate change effects on the distributional shifts and extinction of vectors of chagas, malaria, lesihmaniasis, and arboviruses in tropical areas (Escobar et al. 2016), and the effects of climate change on the range of tick-borne diseases (Vilges et al. 2017). We have found artifactual predictions for modern methodologies of models projected to future climate scenarios (Qiao et al. 2018). Our mission is to develop accurate and biologically sound forecasts of climate change and infectious diseases.  

Spatial epidemiology in the Anthropocene

​We are particularly interested in developing transmission-risk models of infectious diseases based on the global movement of human passengers and products across the sky and oceans. We are also applying these methodologies at fine-scale (e.g., movement of boats between lakes) to reconstruct the spread of invasive species in aquatic ecosystems. A strong component of these efforts is the use of network analysis.


In The United States: 


VA (VDGIF, The Wildlife Center, VA Dept. Health, George Mason University)

NY (SUNY Upstate, CUNY)

KS (University of Kansas)

 MN (University of Minnesota)

NC (NC State University)

TN (University of Tennessee)

AZ (University of Arizona)

MA (University of Massachusetts)


CA (UC Davis, UC Berkeley)

TX (University of Texas Health Science Center)

In Guatemala:

Guatemala City (Universidad de San Carlos, Universidad del Valle)

In Ecuador:

Guayaquil (Escuela Politécnica del Litoral)

Quito (Universidad de San Francisco)

In Australia:

Tasmania (University of Tasmania)

In the United Kingdom:

Cambridge (University of Cambridge)

Lincoln (University of Lincoln)

Liverpool (University of Liverpool)

In Pakistan:

Muzaffarabad (Himalayan Nature Conservation Foundation)

In China:

Beijing (Chinese Academy of Science)

Tianjin (Tianjin Normal University)

In Panama:

Panama City (Instituto Conmemorativo Gorgas)

In Uruguay:

Montevideo (Universidad Tecnologica)

In Brasil:


Brasilia (University of Barsilia)

Pernambuco (Secretaria de Saude de Recife)

In Mexico:

Xalapa (Institute of Ecology Inecol)

In Chile:

Santiago (University Andres Bello)

Temuco (Universidad Santo Tomas)

Chiloé (Wild Chiloe)

In Spain:

Madrid (Universidad Complutense)

Ciudad Real (Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha)

In Denmark:

Aarhus (Aarhus University)

In Colombia:

Bogota (Universidad de La Salle, Universidad Distrital)