Foley Laboratory in Infectious Disease Ecology

Risa Pesapane

Risa is a PhD student in the Graduate Group of Ecology at UC Davis. She completed her undergraduate and early graduate training at Virginia Tech earning dual B.S. degrees in wildlife science and biology and an M.S. in wildlife science with a focus on disease ecology. She enjoys applying systems ecology to the study of infectious disease, particularly zoonotic pathogens and the interactions among species that lead to spillover. In her previous research, she developed an ecological model using a sentinel wildlife species and E. coli to research the transmission dynamics of microorganisms at the human-wildlife interface. Her current research focuses on the endangered Amargosa vole (Microtus californicus scirpensis) and disease transmission dynamics within small mammal communities of the Amargosa Ecoregion - an ecologically unique and sensitive desert region with an expanding ecotourism component. This project is part of a larger interagency initiative which you can learn more about on the Amargosa vole page. Risa, along with Nora Allan from CDFW, manages the captive breeding program for Amargosa voles at UC Davis and leads outreach efforts for the Amargosa Vole Conservation Project.   

Throughout her research endeavors, Risa has remained engaged in inter- and multidisciplinary initiatives, mentorship, and outreach. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for the international One Health Commission and is partnering with CDPH on an Inyo County hantavirus seroprevalence study. Risa is also participating in the GAAAP's M.E.N.T.O.R. program which offers support for current underrepresented undergraduate students and the Graduate Student Peer Mentorship Program which is a dual training and mentoring program. Prior to graduate school, Risa was employed by non-profits, private companies, and academia. For a full list of projects, contact information, and to download her CV please visit