CANCELED: Health at the Human-animal-environment Interface

Speaker: Elizabeth (Liz) VanWormer

adjunct faculty, UNL School of Natural Resources

Date: 11/12/2014
Time: 3:30:00 PM
Location: Hardin Hall auditorium (room 107)


As human activities rapidly reshape landscapes, climate and species interactions, understanding the ecology and epidemiology of zoonotic diseases is critical for protecting human and animal health. Originally described in terrestrial environments, Toxoplasma gondii, a globally distributed zoonotic parasite, is emerging as an important pathogen in aquatic systems. Toxoplasma gondii has been linked to widespread marine mammal infection and severe waterborne disease outbreaks in humans in temperate and tropical ecosystems. The impact of T. gondii has been particularly significant in threatened California sea otters, which serve as sentinels for disease threats to people and animals sharing coastal environments. As wild and domestic felids are the only known hosts capable of shedding extremely hardy T. gondii oocysts into the environment, infection of marine mammals suggests land-to-sea pathogen transmission. High-risk marine sites for T. gondii infection in sea otters have been identified, but parasite burden in the terrestrial environment is not well characterized.

VanWormer will share research on contributions of wild and domestic felids to terrestrial parasite loading and human influences on movement of T. gondii from land to sea in the coastal California landscape. The research team used a One Health approach, which emphasizes the importance of diverse disciplinary tools and perspectives to understand health challenges at the human-animal-environment interface.

Liz VanWormer
Liz VanWormer

Speaker's Bio

As an epidemiologist, VanWormer focuses on diverse health issues at the interface of humans, animals (both domestic and wild) and the environment in the United States and abroad. After earning her undergraduate and veterinary degrees from Michigan State University and Ph.D. from UC Davis, she spent three years living and working on One Health projects in Tanzania.