Principal Investigator

Risa Pesapane (she/her) is a broadly trained disease ecologist who studies parasites and pathogens in both human and animal populations by leveraging tools from community ecology, molecular ecology, landscape ecology, microbiology, entomology, and epidemiology. She earned a PhD in ecology with a designated emphasis in the biology of vector-borne disease from UC Davis, an MS in wildlife science with a focus on disease ecology from Virginia Tech, and simultaneous undergraduate degrees in wildlife science and biology from Virginia Tech. Risa is a vocal advocate of interdisciplinarity, One Health, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. At home, she is mom to a tiny human as well as several pets and enjoys a myriad of home and garden projects with her partner on their small homestead.


Graduate Students


Ningzhu Bai obtained a B.S. in Animal Biosciences, with a minor in Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife, from The Ohio State University in 2020. She recently defended her Master’s in 2022 and is in her first year of a PhD in the Environment and Natural Resources Graduate Program (ENRGP). She is interested in the ecology of vector-borne disease.



Ashani Hangawatte, received a BSc specialized in Zoology with special focus in Wildlife Conservation and Molecular Biology from The Open University of Sri Lanka. She is currently a second year graduate student in Environment and Natural Resources, Doctor of Philosophy program in the Ohio State University. Prior to enrolling in the graduate program, she has worked on couple of research projects on fish ecology, captive sloth bear behavior, marine mammal genetic diversity and urban wild feline ecology and diseases in Sri Lanka. Her passion is to learn disease ecology in order to apply the knowledge to Wildlife Conservation. In her free time she loves to spend time on animal welfare, traveling, hiking and SCUBA diving.


Allison Williams obtained a B.S. in Wildlife & Fisheries from Frostburg State University, with a minor in biology and mathematics. She is currently a second-year graduate student in the Environment and Natural Resources Graduate Program and is co-advised by Dr. Pesapane and Dr. Peterman. She is interested in quantitative sciences and their applications in ecology. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, backpacking, and identifying native flora.





DaZané Cole is a veterinary student at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine where she also pursuing a Comparative Biomedical Sciences Master’s degree in the combined DVM/MS program. DaZané received a BS in Biology and BA in psychology with a minor in chemistry from Sweet Briar College. DaZané is currently investigating bovine anaplasmosis via analysis of ticks from Ohio livestock where she is characterizing the species and genotypes present in cattle herds. DaZané is interested in studying zoonotic disease and pathology where she hopes to apply her findings in clinical and translational medicine.




Professional Students

Andreas Eleftheriou (he/him) is a resident in Veterinary Public Health and an MPH student. He has received a B.A. in Biology with a specialization in Ecology and Conservation Biology from Boston University, an M.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, a D.V.M. from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and a Ph.D. in Fish and Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana. His research approach typically takes a One Health perspective and aims to combine field, laboratory, statistical and mathematical modeling to address ongoing and emerging issues in health and disease. Andreas is particularly interested in veterinary preventive medicine, infectious disease ecology, ecotoxicology, epidemiology, and conservation medicine. In the Pesapane lab, Andreas will participate in an Ohio-based project that seeks to identify deficiencies in the knowledge of livestock producers and veterinary professionals about invasive ticks and tick-borne diseases and help address any deficiencies via educational materials. Outside of academia, he is excited to explore what Columbus has to offer during his tenure! Find Andreas on Twitter @andreas_elef

Morgan Shields is a veterinary student with interests in zoo/aquatic animal medicine and research, animal disaster relief/marine rescue, and service in the U. S. Army Vet Corps. Morgan graduated from Otterbein University with a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She is especially passionate about ocean health and her favorite animal is the Amazon River Dolphin. For the 2021 Summer Research Program with the PPE Lab, Morgan studied the survival and control of nasopulmonary mites in captive facilities to guide husbandry protocols that improve marine mammal health. For the 2022 Summer Research Program, she studied the potential role of cetacean lungworm in the transmission of Brucella. When she is not studying, Morgan enjoys SCUBA diving, horseback riding, backpacking, and rock climbing.



Kate Neumeyer is an MPH student at The Ohio State University specializing in Veterinary Public Health. She received a BS in Zoology with a minor in Spanish from Ohio State in 2020. In the PPE Lab, Kate is completing her MPH-VPH integrative learning experience (ILE), detecting on characterizing Babesia spp. in blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) found in Ohio. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a DVM degree and investigate zoonotic and vector-borne diseases in animal populations. In her free time, Kate enjoys playing her guitar and ukulele, as well as spending time with her dog and two cats.



Kaylee Shrock is a MPH-VPH  student at The Ohio State University. She is interested in zoonotic disease with focus on global vector-borne disease. She majored in Animal Sciences and Entomology. Kaylee will be researching zoonotic tick-borne diseases in the PPE lab to better understand connections between companion and human health. Kaylee currently works as a veterinary assistant and enjoys hiking, concerts, and baking in her free time.




Lauren (Lo) Vesprani is a veterinary student at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where she is also pursing an MPH in Veterinary Public Health. She majored in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Michigan. Lo is reviewing the current recommendations to prevent tick bites and Lyme disease in the US and assessing their cultural appropriateness for the Amish population of eastern Ohio.





Undergraduate Students



Jazmin Jennings is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University majoring in Zoology with a minor in Animal Pre-Veterinary Medicine. She is interested in pursuing wildlife veterinary medicine and exploring how zoonoses spread among wild animal populations.




Elena McGoey is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University majoring in Animal Sciences, with a minor in Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife. She is interested in pursuing veterinary public health, particularly zoonoses that affect wildlife species. In the PPE Lab, Elena is studying the prevalence and diversity of tick-borne pathogens in Ixodes spp. ticks from wild and domestic animals in Canada.




Selena Wang is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University majoring in biology. She is interested in exploring veterinary medicine and veterinary public health. In the PPE Lab, Selena worked on the relationship between pathogen presence and microbial community characteristics in Lone star ticks and the diversity of ticks and tick-borne pathogens in Cleveland Metro parks.




Field Crew

Ayden Van Fossen

Kayla Gilmore

John Narouze










Former Students

Savannah Beverly completed her MPH in Veterinary Public Health program with the Pesapane Lab and is now a Senior Lab Technician at Batelle. She also holds a B.S. in Zoology with minors in Nonprofit Studies and Parks Management at Kent State University. Savannah’s MPH research focused on recreational exposure to tick-borne disease in urban green spaces and management recommendations to prevent and control the spread of tick-borne disease.




Julia Beckett is a graduate of the Forestry and Wildlife program at The Ohio State University. She is interested in large carnivore conservation and population dynamics. As part of the PPE Lab, Julia contributed to numerous projects including the study of feline cytauxzoonosis in Ohio bobcats, domestic cats, and ticks.



Jed Henning obtained a B.S. in Biology, with a minor in History, from The College of Idaho in 2013. He was a third-year veterinary student at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine interested in exploring veterinary research and specialty practice. For his Summer Research Program with the PPE Lab, Jed researched the use of shelter dogs as a sentimental species of tick-borne diseases in Ohio, along with developing an updated distribution of tick species in Ohio.




Wiley Archibald is a veterinary student with interests in zoo/wildlife clinical medicine and research. Wiley graduated from Swarthmore College with a  degree in Biology, then completed a Master of Science in Biology from Humboldt State University. Prior to veterinary school, he worked as a marine mammal biologist conducting field work on a range of pinniped species in California, Alaska, and Antarctica. For his Summer Research Program with the PPE Lab, Wiley examined the distribution and transmission of nasal mites (Halarachne halichoeri) in northern and southern sea otters and its implications on translocated and rehabilitated animals.



Yiming Chu is an undergraduate student at the Ohio State University, majoring in Animal Bioscience. She is interested in small animal medicine and veterinary public health. In the PPE Lab, Yiming characterized the prevalence and diversity of spotted fever group Rickettsia in Ohio.






Caleb Cummings is an undergraduate premed student at Ohio State majoring in Biology and Business. He would like to pursue a career in radiology, but also is interested in animals and animal behavior. Aside from these ambitions he loves working out, investing, and learning new things. In the PPE Lab, Caleb worked on the relationship between pathogen presence and microbial community characteristics in Lone star ticks.