Principal Investigator

Mark Wilber, PhD

Contact Info:

University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
School of Natural Resources
Knoxville, TN 37996-4500

Office: 51D McCord Hall, 2640 Morgan Circle Drive
Phone: 865-974-8091


Juan Vargas Soto

I am a Costa Rican ecologist and conservation biologist, and I am interested in how human-induced changes in the landscape influence transmission of parasites and pathogens between wild and domestic species, and what that means for parasite spread and persistence. To answer these questions, I use a diverse array of field and laboratory methods to learn more about my study systems, and link them with mathematical models to gain deeper understanding about them. I got a BS in Biology from the University of Costa Rica, where I was lucky to conduct field research in the most ridiculously beautiful places. I then did my Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with Péter Molnár at the University of Toronto, studying the potential for environmental transmission of helminths between domestic dogs and wild cats in southern Costa Rica. Currently, I am developing and extending practical methods to analyze the influence of fine-scale spatial movement on parasite transmission. I like piña coladas, and getting caught in the (tropical) rain.


Graduate Students

Joe DeMarchi (PhD Student)

I am broadly interested in incorporating complex host-parasite interactions into our general understanding of infectious disease. In particular, my research will investigate host-parasite community dynamics specifically how host identity, communities and landscapes can shape disease outcomes. I hope to incorporate heterogeneity among species and landscapes in multi-host communities to predict areas of disease emergence


Sarah Schrock (Masters Student)

I have a BS in Biology from Olivet Nazarene University and an MS in Epidemiology from the University of Colorado. I worked for a couple of years as an epidemiologist at a hospital in Denver and later at the New Mexico Department of Health. For several years, I have been interested in shifting my career from public health to wildlife, focusing on disease ecology. In the summer of 2021, I had the pleasure of working on a statewide assessment of alligator snapping turtles with the University of Houston. Since then, I’ve been working as an assistant keeper at Zoo Knoxville. I am honored to be joining UT’s FWF Department and having the opportunity to study the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) in amphibian species. My research will combine fieldwork and mathematical modeling to better understand the factors influencing long-term Bd persistence in amphibian species in eastern Tennessee.


Undergraduate Students

Cassidy Wallace

I’m an undergraduate student majoring in Animal Science with a minor in Wildlife and Fisheries. I have always had a passion for animals, especially amphibians. I’m thrilled to be on the team here researching disease in wildlife and am excited for all of the opportunities to come.

Emily McDavid

I’m an undergraduate student in the Wildlife and Fisheries Management major and I’m minoring in Forestry and Watersheds. I hope to go to grad school after I graduate and my dream is to be a conservation biologist and work with endangered wildlife and fish species using genetics. I’m super excited to be part of the team and to learn more about amphibians and scientific research!