Gavin Cotterill

Gavin Cotterill

  • Contact Information
  • My Story
  • Publications
  • Background
  • Interests

Contact Information

TitleWildlife Disease Ecologist
Faculty RankResearch Assistant Professor
Address523 South Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE


Contact Preference

E-mail and if my door is open, come on in

My Story

I am originally from Maryland in a suburb of Washington D.C. and have always been drawn to plants, animals, and 'the natural world'. Despite having somewhat restricted access to those things growing up, I was fortunate to have grandparents and extended family that lived farther afield. That meant that at least for a few weeks each summer I could visit rural parts of upstate New York and New England where there were better opportunities for hiking, canoeing, camping, and birding. As a teenager I was also lucky enough to work at a farm where I got to learn all sorts of different skills from growing tomatoes and running a cider press to driving forklifts and tractors.

During college I was an avid cyclist, worked as a bike mechanic, and while attending the University of Vermont explored some of the best dirt road riding in the country. I received my B.S. in wildlife biology in 2010 after which I worked a series of wildlife technician jobs with Washington state serving as my itinerant home base: I performed backcountry point counts of breeding birds in North Cascades and Mount Rainier National Parks; I banded and monitored western bluebirds and horned larks around Puget Sound; I checked mountain lion GPS clusters for prey remains in Montana and Wyoming; and for a couple of years I handled detection dogs on wildlife projects in the U.S., Canada, and Turkey.

I returned to school in 2015 to study a bacterial disease called brucellosis and its effects on elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Gavin Cotterill with elk

Four years later I received my PhD in Ecology from Utah State University and subsequently went to work for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife studying bighorn sheep that are subject to periodic outbreaks of pneumonia.

Gavin and colleagues with bighorn sheep

My academic interests are broad, but my recent work as a wildlife disease ecologist focuses on pathogens that are transmitted between domestic livestock and wild ungulates. I enjoy bringing computationally-intensive methods to bear on long term datasets in order to inform wildlife management. At the moment I am especially interested in using simulation-based approaches to investigate disease management strategies.

In my free time I still like to play in the dirt, tinker, and follow a dog that’s using its nose.

Selected Publications

Cotterill, G. G., P. C. Cross, J. A. Merkle, J. D. Rogerson, B. M. Scurlock, and J. T. du Toit. 2020. Parsing the effects of demography, climate, and management on recurrent brucellosis outbreaks in elk. Journal of Applied Ecology, 57(22), 379-389, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13553. Online
Cotterill, G. G., P. C. Cross, A. D. Middleton, J. D. Rogerson, B. M. Scurlock, and J. T. du Toit. 2018. Hidden cost of disease in a free-ranging ungulate: brucellosis reduces mid-winter pregnancy in elk. Ecology and Evolution, 8(22), 10733-10742, DOI: 10.1002/ece3.4521.Online
Cotterill, G. G., P. C. Cross, E. K. Cole, R. K. Fuda, J. D. Rogerson, B. M. Scurlock, and J. T. du Toit. 2018. Winter feeding of elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and its effects on disease dynamics. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 373(1745), DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2017.0093.Online



DegreeMajorInstitutionYear Awarded
Doctorate of PhilosophyEcologyUtah State University2019
Bachelor of ScienceWildlife BiologyUniversity of Vermont2010



TitleAwarded byYear Awarded
Doctoral Researcher of the YearQuinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University2020
Quinney Doctoral Research FellowQuinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University2015




SNR Program Areas

  • Applied Ecology

Areas of Interest/Expertise

  • Disease ecology
  • Mark-recapture
  • Partially-observed Markov process models
  • Continuous-time movement models
  • Brucellosis
  • Mycoplasma ovipneumonia
  • Shiny app development
  • High-performance computing