Ticks are an important vector of zoonotic diseases, and tick-borne diseases are commonly observed in central Illinois. We aim to better understand the role of human behavior, pets, and environmental factors in the exposure of people and domestic animals to these diseases.

Publications:Midwest Center of Excellence-Vector Borne Disease

  • Effects of tick surveillance education on knowledge, attitudes, and practices of local health department employees. LA Lyons, N Mateus-Pinilla, RL Smith. BMC public health 22 (1), 215
  • Effects of climate on the variation in abundance of three tick species in Illinois. EA Bacon, H Kopsco, P Gronemeyer, N Mateus-Pinilla, RL Smith. Journal of medical entomology 59 (2), 700-709
  • Knowledge, attitudes, and practices of veterinary professionals towards ticks and tick-borne diseases in Illinois. SD Crist, H Kopsco, A Miller, P Gronemeyer, N Mateus-Pinilla, RL Smith. One Health 14, 100391
  • A scoping review of species distribution modeling methods for tick vectors. HL Kopsco, RL Smith, SJ Halsey. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10, 893016
  • Knowledge, attitudes, and practices of Illinois medical professionals related to ticks and tick-borne disease. DA Carson, H Kopsco, P Gronemeyer, N Mateus-Pinilla, GS Smith, RL Smith. One Health 15, 100424
  • Current and Future Habitat Suitability Models for Four Ticks of Medical Concern in Illinois, USA. HL Kopsco, P Gronemeyer, N Mateus-Pinilla, RL Smith. Insects 14 (3), 213
  • Farmers’ Knowledge and Practices About Ticks and Tickborne Diseases in Illinois. S Chakraborty, TL Steckler, P Gronemeyer, N Mateus-Pinilla, RL Smith. Journal of Agromedicine, 1-13

Also see the I-TICK program, a project to determine where ticks are across the state of Illinois, and the Tick App, a service to provide tick monitoring, identification, and support to members of the community.

As part of the Upper Midwestern Center for Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases

West Nile Virus is the most common arbovirus in the United States, and is endemic in the state of Illinois. We are working to model the system in many ways, with a goal of providing practical, real-time support to mosquito control professionals.

In collaboration with Megan Fritz, the Northwest Mosquito Abatement District, the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District, and the Wheaton Mosquito Abatement District

Recent Publications:

  • Two-Step Light Gradient Boosted Model to identify human West Nile Virus infection risk factor in Chicago. G Wan, J Allen, W Ge, S Rawlani, J Uelmen, LS Mainzer, RL Smith. medRxiv, 2023.05. 09.23289737
  • Forecasting West Nile Virus with Graph Neural Networks: Harnessing Spatial Dependence in Irregularly Sampled Geospatial Data. A Tonks, T Harris, B Li, W Brown, R Smith. arXiv preprint arXiv:2212.11367
  • The Impact of Adulticide on Culex Abundance and Infection Rate in North Shore of Cook County, Illinois. D Sass, B Li, M Clifton, J Harbison, C Xamplas, R Smith. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association 38 (1), 46-58
  • A proposed framework for the development and qualitative evaluation of West Nile virus models and their application to local public health decision-making. Alexander C Keyel, Morgan E Gorris, Ilia Rochlin, Johnny A Uelmen, Luis F Chaves, Gabriel L Hamer, Imelda K Moise, Marta Shocket, A Marm Kilpatrick, Nicholas B DeFelice, Justin K Davis, Eliza Little, Patrick Irwin, Andrew J Tyre, Kelly Helm Smith, Chris L Fredregill, Oliver Elison Timm, Karen M Holcomb, Michael C Wimberly, Matthew J Ward, Christopher M Barker, Charlotte G Rhodes, Rebecca L Smith. PLoS neglected tropical diseases 15 (9), e0009653

The goal of this research is to understand the spread and monitoring of pathogens in wastewater and water reuse.

primary collaborator: Helen Nguyen

Selected Publications:

  • Risk of Legionellosis in residential areas around farms irrigating with municipal wastewater. J Mori, RL Smith. Risk Analysis
  • Predictive modeling of pH in an aquaponics system using Bayesian and non-Bayesian linear regression to inform system maintenance. J Mori, K Erickson, RL Smith. ACS Agricultural Science & Technology 1 (4), 400-406
  • Quantification and comparison of risks associated with wastewater use in spray irrigation. J Mori, S Uprety, Y Mao, S Koloutsou‐Vakakis, TH Nguyen, RL Smith. Risk Analysis 41 (5), 745-760

We aim to use a comparative approach to infectious disease research, with the goal of better understanding the role of the microbes, sociodemographics, and systemic factors in the health of all hosts.

As part of the Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Theme Page: IGOH

Theme Leader: Rachel Whitaker

Selected Publications:

  • An Interdisciplinary Approach to One Health: Course Design, Development, and Delivery. S Chakraborty, FCD Andrade, RL Smith. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 49 (5), 568-574
  • Flooding on beef and swine farms: A scoping review of effects in the Midwestern United States. S Crist, J Mori, RL Smith. Preventive veterinary medicine 184, 105158

Livestock diseases spread between herds through a variety of routes: animal movements, fomites, farm visits, wildlife, etc. Our goal is to identify and quantify the impact of these different routes on the spread of disease between livestock herds. The ultimate goal is to identify the best strategies for stopping disease spread.


  • A new perspective on fomites spread among livestock systems: from visits to contacts, and back. Rossi, G. et al. Scientific Reports 7:2375
  • Modelling farm-to-farm disease transmission through personnel movements: from visits to contacts, and back. Rossi, G., Smith, R. L.; Pongolini, S.; Bolzoni, L. Scientific Reports 2017, 7(1), 2375.

During the initial days of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, our lab pivoted to provide support for public health in the form of research and planning at various levels, including universities, K-12 schools, and communities. We continue to analyze data collected and lessons learned to help us prepare for the next pandemic

Selected Publications:

  • Multi‐species outbreak of SARS‐CoV‐2 Delta variant in a zoological institution, with the detection in two new families of carnivores. MC Allender, MJ Adkesson, JN Langan, KW Delk, T Meehan, … Transboundary and Emerging Diseases 69 (5), e3060-e3075 6 2022
  • Modeling Community COVID-19 Transmission Risk Associated with US Universities. JA Uelmen, H Kopsco, J Mori, W Brown, R Smith. In review.
  • Longitudinal analysis of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine breakthrough infections reveals limited infectious virus shedding and restricted tissue distribution. R Ke, PP Martinez, RL Smith, LL Gibson, CJ Achenbach, S McFall, C Qi, … Open forum infectious diseases 9 (7), ofac192
  • Mitigation of SARS-CoV-2 transmission at a large public university. DRE Ranoa, RL Holland, FG Alnaji, KJ Green, L Wang, RL Fredrickson, … Nature communications 13 (1), 3207
  • Daily longitudinal sampling of SARS-CoV-2 infection reveals substantial heterogeneity in infectiousness. R Ke, PP Martinez, RL Smith, LL Gibson, A Mirza, M Conte, N Gallagher, … Nature Microbiology 7 (5), 640-652
  • “I took it off most of the time ’cause I felt comfortable”: unmasking, trusted others, and lessons learned from a coronavirus disease 2019 reinfection: a case report. JK Dariotis, SM Sloane, RL Smith. Journal of Medical Case Reports 15 (1), 1-7
  • Longitudinal assessment of diagnostic test performance over the course of acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. RL Smith, LL Gibson, PP Martinez, R Ke, A Mirza, M Conte, N Gallagher, … J Inf Dis 224 (6), 976-982