GISSA: Research

College of Veterinary Medicine at Illinois

U of I logo Department of Pathobiology

Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis Laboratory

Our research focuses on the spatial and temporal variability of pathogens, the spatial dynamics of transmission of disease agents among hosts and the relationship between environmental factors and health. We also develop novel methods to measure landscape characteristics that reflect biological realities. The visualization of these metrics in the form of maps, graphs and web-based interactive mapping of specialized data is also an important component of our work.

Often our work is performed in interdisciplinary groups, including biologists, ecologists, veterinarians, public health managers, and medical entomologists. Some recent projects are described below.

The Eco-epidemiology of West Nile Virus

WNV figure

West Nile virus was first found in North America in 1999. From there, it spread across the continent, reaching Illinois in 2001. The GISSA lab is on a team with scientists from Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin and Emory University to determine the transmission dynamics of West Nile virus. We have focused our efforts on an area in south Cook County, where human illness was notable in the 2002 epidemic.

Sustainable redevelopment of Brownfields


Brownfields are found in urban areas where prior industrial uses have left contaminants that hinder redevelopment of land. In this project, we are analyzing health effects that might be associated with neighborhoods with brownfields and benefits that may accrue from development. More information can be found at our project website.

Chronic Wasting Disease in Illinois deer

CWD positive in deer

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) poses a danger to Illinois’ White-tailed deer population. It was first found in Illinois in 2002, shortly after its appearance in Wisconsin.

Our work on CWD focuses on detecting and describing the spread of CWD and the environmental characteristics associated with the risk of illness in deer.

One of the CWD research efforts focuses on determining genetic variation among deer populations in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. In order to better visualize the results from genetic analysis, we developed this Google Maps application.