Barbara Han’s research is at the intersection of ecology, computing, and global health. Han uses machine learning to forecast outbreaks of new zoonotic diseases – those that ‘jump’ from animals to humans. Of more than a billion cases of human illness reported each year, the majority are attributed to zoonotic pathogens.
Han employs complex computer algorithms to analyze patterns and processes in nature that could result in the next Ebola, SARS, or West Nile virus outbreak. Some of these models compare traits of known animal disease carriers – size, diet, reproductive habits, biogeography – with thousands of species not yet known to carry disease, in order to predict which animals might become disease carriers in the future. Han also works on projects that predict where and when diseases could emerge; other research investigates why and how some species transmit more zoonoses to humans than others.
Research like Han’s has the potential to become a valuable tool for public health officials. Predicting and preempting the arrival of a new zoonotic disease will save lives. This technology could also impact land management decisions, as it becomes obvious that diseases are more likely to emerge from certain habitats.
Han has partnered with diverse collaborators at IBM and NASA to advance research on global disease prediction. She contributes to efforts led by WHO and the US Government to apply this research to disease preemption.
Glidden, CK, AR Murran, RAL Silva, A Castellanos, Barbara A. Han, and EA Mordecai. (MAY) 2023. “Phylogenetic And Biogeographical Traits Predict Unrecognized Hosts Of Zoonotic Leishmaniasis”. Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases 17 (5). doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0010879.
Rosi, Emma J., JB Fick, and Barbara A. Han. (MAY 9) 2023. “Are Animal Disease Reservoirs At Risk Of Human Antiviral Exposure?”. Environmental Science & Technology Letters 10 (5): 439-445, . doi:10.1021/acs.estlett.3c00201.
Faust, CL, AA Castellanos, AJ Peel, P Eby, RK Plowright, Barbara A. Han, and N Bharti. (2023 APR 21AD) 2023. “Environmental Variation Across Multiple Spatial Scales And Temporal Lags Influences Hendra Virus Spillover”. Journal Of Applied Ecology. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.14415.
Espira, LM, AF Brouwer, Barbara A. Han, J Foufopoulos, and JNS Eisenberg. 2022. “Dilution Of Epidemic Potential Of Environmentally Transmitted Infectious Diseases For Species With Partially Overlapping Habitats”. American Naturalist. doi:10.1086/717413.
Moubarak, Michael, Ilya R. Fischhoff, Barbara A. Han, and Adrian Castellanos. 2022. “A Spatially Explicit Risk Assessment Of Salamander Populations To Batrachochytrium Salamandrivorans In The United States”. Diversity And Distributions 28 (11). Wiley: 2316-2329. doi:10.1111/ddi.13627.
Martin, Jessica T, Ilya R. Fischhoff, Adrian Castellanos, and Barbara A. Han. 2022. “Ecological Predictors Of Zoonotic Vector Status Among Dermacentor Ticks (Acari: Ixodidae): A Trait-Based Approach”. Journal Of Medical Entomology 59 (6). Oxford University Press (OUP): 2158-2166. doi:10.1093/jme/tjac125.
Ecke, Frauke, Barbara A. Han, Birger Hörnfeldt, Hussein Khalil, Magnus Magnusson, Navinder J. Singh, and Richard S. Ostfeld. 2022. “Population Fluctuations And Synanthropy Explain Transmission Risk In Rodent-Borne Zoonoses”. Nature Communications 13 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1038/s41467-022-35273-7.
Celone, M, B Okech, Barbara A. Han, BM Forshey, A Anyamba, J Dunford, G Rutherford, et al. (DEC) 2021. “A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of The Potential Non-Human Animal Reservoirs And Arthropod Vectors Of The Mayaro Virus”. Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases 15 (12). doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0010016.
Fischhoff, Ilya R., Adrian Castellanos, JPGLM Rodrigues, A Varsani, and Barbara A. Han. (NOV 24) 2021. “Predicting The Zoonotic Capacity Of Mammals To Transmit Sars-Cov-2”. Proceedings Of The Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 288 (1963). doi:10.1098/rspb.2021.1651.
Carlson, CJ, MJ Farrell, Z Grange, Barbara A. Han, N Mollentze, AL Phelan, AL Rasmussen, et al. (NOV 8) 2021. “The Future Of Zoonotic Risk Prediction”. Philosophical Transactions Of The Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 376 (1837). doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0358.
Majewska, AA, Tao Huang, Barbara A. Han, and John M. Drake. (NOV 8) 2021. “Predictors Of Zoonotic Potential In Helminths”. Philosophical Transactions Of The Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 376 (1837). doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0356.
Celone, Michael, Bernard Okech, Barbara A. Han, Brett M. Forshey, Assaf Anyamba, James Dunford, George Rutherford, et al. 2021. “A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of The Potential Non-Human Animal Reservoirs And Arthropod Vectors Of The Mayaro Virus”. Laith Yakob. Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases 15 (12). Public Library of Science (PLoS): e0010016. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0010016.
Becker, Daniel J., and Barbara A. Han. 2021. “The Macroecology And Evolution Of Avian Competence For Borrelia Burgdorferi”. Global Ecology And Biogeography 30 (3). Wiley: 710-724. doi:10.1111/geb.13256.
Han, Barbara A., Adrian Castellanos, John Paul Schmidt, Ilya R. Fischhoff, and John M. Drake. 2021. “The Ecology Of Zoonotic Parasites In The Carnivora”. Trends In Parasitology 37 (12). Elsevier BV: 1096-1110. doi:10.1016/j.pt.2021.08.006.
Han, Barbara A., Suzanne M. O'Regan, John Paul Schmidt, and John M. Drake. 2020. “Integrating Data Mining And Transmission Theory In The Ecology Of Infectious Diseases”. Amanda Bates. Ecology Letters 23 (8). Wiley: 1178-1188. doi:10.1111/ele.13520.
Fischhoff, Ilya R., Tao Huang, Stephen K. Hamilton, Barbara A. Han, Shannon L. LaDeau, Richard S. Ostfeld, Emma J. Rosi, and Christopher T. Solomon. 2020. “Parasite And Pathogen Effects On Ecosystem Processes: A Quantitative Review”. Ecosphere 11 (5). Wiley. doi:10.1002/ecs2.3057.
Stephens, Patrick R., Sonia Altizer, Vanessa O. Ezenwa, John L. Gittleman, Emili Moan, Barbara A. Han, Shan Huang, and Paula Pappalardo. 2019. “Parasite Sharing In Wild Ungulates And Their Predators: Effects Of Phylogeny, Range Overlap, And Trophic Links”. Journal Of Animal Ecology 88 (7). Wiley: 1017-1028. doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12987.
Berger, Kavita, James Wood, Bonnie Jenkins, Jennifer Olsen, Stephen Morse, Louise Gresham, J. Root, et al. 2019. “Policy And Science For Global Health Security: Shaping The Course Of International Health”. Tropical Medicine And Infectious Disease 4 (2): 60. doi:10.3390/tropicalmed4020060.
Han, Barbara A., S. Majumdar, F. P. Calmon, B. S. Glicksberg, R. Horesh, A. Kumar, A. Perer, et al. 2019. “Confronting Data Sparsity To Identify Potential Sources Of Zika Virus Spillover Infection Among Primates”. Epidemics 27: 59 - 65. doi:10.1016/j.epidem.2019.01.005.
Plowright, Raina K., Daniel J. Becker, Daniel E. Crowley, Alex D. Washburne, Tao Huang, P. O. Nameer, Emily S. Gurley, and Barbara A. Han. 2019. “Prioritizing Surveillance Of Nipah Virus In India”. Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases 13 (6): e0007393. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0007393.
Dr. Adrian Castellanos is the data manager and spatial analyst in the Han lab, where he supports data visualization and scripting. He received his PhD in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University working with Dr. Jessica Light. This work focused on how natural history collections can be used to examine patterns of biodiversity and biogeography in Central American mammals, highlighting the continued importance of specimen collection and data digitization. Although he identifies as a mammalogist, Adrian has also worked on birds, amphibians, orthopterans, and ticks with projects involving disease ecology, behavioral plasticity, morphological shape change, cryptic diversity, and species distribution and occupancy modeling. His research interests include improving species distribution modeling for conservation and biodiversity work, biodiversity informatics, and helping write and troubleshoot code.
Dr. July Pilowsky is a postdoctoral scientist in the Han lab, applying a process-explicit modeling approach to analyzing the ecology of infectious diseases and their hosts. They have a background in animal behavior, conservation biology, and ecological modeling. They received their PhD through a joint program between the University of Adelaide in Australia and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, researching and developing process-explicit ecological models. They applied this technique to reconstruct the range collapses of the extinct steppe bison and the currently threatened European bison over tens of thousands of years. They have developed / co-developed two R packages for ecological modeling: colorednoise, which models temporal autocorrelation, and paleopop, which models species range dynamics over long timescales.