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

PhD

Rachel is a post-doctoral researcher in Sarah Hamer's lab. Her PhD work focused on the ecology and epidemiology of Chagas disease in the southern US. Data from citizen-submitted bugs comprised the bulk of her dissertation. She enjoys working with the public to raise awareness and is a main contact for questions from the public.

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.

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.

Valery Roman-Cruz

MPH

Valery is a Research Assistant in the Hamer Labs. She is a main contact involved in answering questions submitted by the public. Valery is also the main organizer/processor of kissing bug specimens received by our lab.

Carolyn Hodo

DVM

Carolyn is a veterinarian and board-certified pathologist. She is a doctoral candidate under Sarah Hamer, studying animal hosts of Chagas disease in Texas, including dogs, wildlife, and non-human primates. She often helps answer veterinary-related questions from the public.

Italo Zecca

MPH

Italo is a PhD student in Sarah Hamer's lab. He works on Chagas projects testing human, domestic animal, and wildlife populations near the US-Mexico TX border. Italo focuses on producing culturally competent education for Hispanic and underserved communities at risk.

Alyssa Meyers

BS

Alyssa is a PhD student in Sarah Hamer's lab. Her research focuses on the epidemiology and risk factors of T. cruzi infection in working dogs. She works along the Texas-Mexico border sampling at risk dogs and educating the community about Chagas disease.

Justin Bejeck

BS

Justin is a MS candidate in Sarah Hamer's lab. His degree focuses on vector-borne diseases. Justin helps identify and process kissing bugs in our lab. He enjoys raising public awareness of vectors and is also working on a manual to help people differentiate kissing bugs from 'look-alike' insects.

Jillian Wormington

MS | PhD

Jillian is a post-doctoral associate in Sarah Hamer's lab. Her research focuses on insect vector behavior and life history, and how they influence disease transmission. Jillian accepts citizen-submitted bugs, introducing them into the laboratory colony for future experiments.

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, carnivore, bat, and rat studies we have done. In addition, we were also involved in documenting a case of Chagas disease in a horse.
  • We conduct research to determine the burden of Chagas disease in populations of different types of dogs. See the work we completed in a survey of Texas shelter dogs as well as the work we completed in a population of central Texas working dog kennels.
  • 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.