THE TEAMCitizen Science Core Group

Sarah A. Hamer

MS | PhD | DVM

Sarah is a disease ecologist and epidemiologist with a background in wildlife ecology. She is an Assistant Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. Sarah studies different vector-borne diseases that impact human and animal health, and teaches epidemiology to undergraduates, graduate students, and veterinary students.

Rachel Curtis-Robles

BS | PhD Student

Rachel is a doctoral candidate in the Veterinary Integrative Bioscience Department at Texas A&M University. Her degree focus is epidemiology, and she is specifically interested in the ecology of vector-borne diseases (particularly parasites). All the bugs submitted by citizen scientists are added to the collection of data that is the bulk of her dissertation. She enjoys working with the public to raise awareness, answer questions, and gather data about kissing bugs in Texas and the U.S. Rachel is the main contact for the citizen science effort.

Gabriel L. Hamer

MS | PhD

Gabe is a medical and veterinary entomologist and wildlife ecologist in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University. Gabe's expertise is in quantifying vector-host interactions across diverse landscapes. Gabe teaches veterinary entomology to undergraduate students.

Edward Wozniak

DVM | PhD | MPH

Ed is a Zoonosis Control Veterinarian with the Texas Department of State Health Services and is based in Uvalde, TX. Ed is a Chagas disease subject matter expert and has expertise with kissing bugs across Texas.

Lisa Auckland

BS

Lisa is the Laboratory Manager of the Hamer Labs. When you call or email the lab to inquire about kissing bug submissions, you may interact with Lisa. Lisa has expertise in molecular analysis of vectors and parasites.

ABOUTWhat We Do

Our research team combines experts in veterinary medicine, parasitology, entomology, ecology, and public health. We are taking a 'One Health' approach to study the ecology and epidemiology of Chagas disease in the southern US. With this approach, we are combining studies of vector populations, wildlife reservoirs, domestic dogs, parasite genetic strains, laboratory animals, and human risk. There are many researchers across Texas A&M University and other institutions in Texas that we work with who have expertise on different aspects of Chagas disease.

  • We are engaged in field collections of kissing bugs using diverse trapping techniques across private and public lands.
  • We have established a state-wide public outreach effort through which we are inviting citizens to submit kissing bugs to our laboratory for identification and testing. This 'citizen science' approach is allowing us to obtain samples from many ecoregions of the state and has broadened the impact of our research. See some of the citizen science results from bugs collected in 2013-2014.
  • We are educating veterinarians and physicians to be aware of Chagas disease and its status in Texas.
  • Our wildlife studies involve capture/release live-trapping of diverse small mammal species and solicitation of blood and tissue samples from hunter-harvested wild animals. See some of the results from feral hog and carnivore studies we have done recently
  • We have established a network of seven animal shelters in the state, and we are assessing the burden of Chagas disease in shelter dogs to provide an index of local risk. See the work we completed in a state-wide survey of shelter dogs.
  • In the laboratory, we are identifying bugs to the species level and testing bugs and wildlife samples for T. cruzi. We are particularly interested in using genetic approaches to determine the strains of parasite that circulate in different regions, because different strains are associated with different disease outcomes in humans and animals.