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About

The Spatial Epidemiology & Ecology Research Laboratory (SEER Lab) is an interdisciplinary laboratory jointly housed in the Department of Geography and the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida.

History of the SEER Lab

The lab was founded by Dr. Jason K. Blackburn in 2007 while on faculty in the Department of Geography at Cal State Fullerton. The SEER Lab moved to UF in July of 2009. Since 2011, SEER Lab has managed biosafety level 2 (BSL-2) and BSL-3 laboratory space to link pathogen microbiology and molecular biology with geospatial analyses. In November 2011, with the help of SEER Lab Adjunct Professor Dr. Ted Hadfield, the lab established the Martin E. Hugh-Jones Bacillus anthracis Collection, and we have expanded the bacterial collection across its geographic and host range. Today, the colection includes a wide range of Brucella spp., Clostridium botulinum, and Bacillus cereus biovar anthracis (the latest described Bacillus species that causes anthrax like infection). Since 2018, Dr. Michael Norris has expanded our BSL-3 capabilities as the lab's associate director. Dr. Norris brings a molecular and immunological tool box to the lab that expands our abilities to address questions from both the perspective of the infected cell and the landscape of transmission.SEER Lab is focused on questions addressing the ecology and spatio-temporal patterns of diseases. SEER Lab research is focused primarily on bacterial zoonoses, those bacterial diseases that affect both animals and humans. Toward these research questions, SEER Lab employs spatial modeling and geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing (e.g. satellite data describing the environment), and micro- and molecular biology. Most recently, like many disease ecology lab's worldwide, SEER Lab has been collaborating with several international teams to quickly study the ongoing COVID-19/SARS-CoV-19 pandemic. Dr. Norris has worked quickly to establish a fully functional BSL-3 facility to grow the virus and study host factors for replication. Dr. Blackburn has provided GIS and modeling support for a study on the epidemiology of COVID-19 across 14 Latin American countries - an area hit especially hard by COVID-19 in a study lead by Dr. Jose Miguel Ponciano (Biology, UF).

SEER Lab Research Facilities

SEER Lab|Geography (3304 Turlington Hall)

our GIS facility in Turlington Hall on the main UF campus, houses research staff, postdocs, and graduate students. The lab maintains a state-of-the-art computer facility with several high end PCs and access to the EPI Data Center.  The lab promotes collaboration and brainstorming with multiple whiteboards and ample room for impromtu meetings. The lab also serves as a conference/meeting room for Lab-related training sessions and regularly hosts international visitors and collaborators. The lab can comfortably seat 10 people. In 2020, SEER Lab will move to the main Geography Corridor on the 3rd floor and be even more integrated with the Department.

SEER Lab|EPI (Emerging Pathogens Institute)

A BSL-2 and BSL-3 certified select agent laboratory to support our research in the microbiology and molecular evolution of Bacillus anthracis. Our BSL-2 lab serves as our base for serological studies designed to detect exposure to the pathogen wildlife and livestock species. SEER Lab is actively collaborating with diagnostics companies to improve and implement serological tests that will support the wide range of wildlife species we study relative to anthrax across the US and Southern Africa. The BSL-3 facility supports our work with the pathogen, including our diagnostics for unknown or suspect samples.  Additionally, this facility supports our molecular genetics studies, including sub-culturing and DNA extraction for safe export to our BSL-2 lab for genotyping and sequencing. SEER Lab can work from field collection of samples through to serological screening (antigens and antibodies), pathogen diagnostics (several pathogens), whole genome sequencing, and genome alignments. In this way, SEER Lab is a truly one-stop-shop for geospatial, phylogenetic, and mircobiological characterization.