Rhea Hanselmann

My primary research interests lie in the interplay between human, animal, and environmental health. In my work, I combine my background in veterinary medicine and epidemiology with my training in disease ecology to examine interactions between animals, their environment, and infectious diseases. My scientific interests are broad and cover a range of species and systems.

In wild animals, I am especially keen to understand:

(1) How human-induced environmental disturbance affects the dynamics of diseases harbored in wildlife populations;
(2) Which host physiologic mechanisms drive these patterns; and
(3) How changes in disease patterns can influence the health and welfare of humans and other animals sharing the same habitat.

For my dissertation research, I examined how intensive forest management effects on wild rodent immunity influence the presence of zoonotic infections in these animal populations. For this work, I used a unique, large-scale experimental design spanning multiple levels of forest management intensity and measured health and immune function in three species of wild rodents residing in these habitats. My results provide insight into the complex interactions between natural and man-made environmental change and their important implications for infectious disease.

In my current research, I study the role of the nasal microbiome in canine infectious respiratory disease. We use a network of shelter dog populations along the West Coast of the US to describe the spatial and temporal dynamics of the bacterial communities living in dog noses. Taking into account the myriad host and environmental variables that shape a microbiome, we then examine the influence of microbiome structure on acquiring respiratory pathogens and determining the trajectory of clinical respiratory disease.

I seek to apply the knowledge gained with my research to global questions concerning animal, human, and environmental health. And, by motivating and involving undergraduate and veterinary students in my research, I am committed to preparing future scientists and veterinarians to become health leaders in our rapidly changing world.