Dr. Jonathan Epstein
Vice President for Science and Outreach
"With over 75 percent of emerging infectious disease originating in wildlife, it's critical that we recognize the importance of understanding the relationships between humans, livestock, wildlife and our environment. Disease spillover is not a malicious act of wild animals, rather an unfortunate consequence of people continuing to put pressure on ecosystems, creating increased contact with wildlife through urbanization, agricultural expansion, travel, and trade. The majority of emerging zoonotic diseases can be linked to human activities, and that's where we need to focus our efforts in order to prevent the next pandemic."
A veterinarian and epidemiologist, Dr. Jonathan Epstein, Vice President for Science and Outreach at EcoHealth Alliance, studies Nipah and Ebola virus, along with SARS, and other diseases that have emerged within Asia and Africa. Jon is part of a large international collaboration that is investigating the ecology of Nipah virus in Bangladesh, where outbreaks occur in people almost every year with mortality rates reaching 100%. The focus of this research is to better understand the factors that cause this lethal virus to emerge, and to develop models to predict and prevent future outbreaks.
Jon, along with colleagues at EcoHealth Alliance, is working with a consortia of university and NGO partners under USAID’s “Emerging Pandemic Threats” program, designed to establish an early warning system for zoonotic disease emergence. The program studies the diversity of pathogens in wildlife and assesses the risk of spillover into livestock and human populations in the most vulnerable countries around the world.
In 2004, Jon was part of a team of Chinese, Australian, and American scientists that identified bats as the natural wildlife reservoir for SARS coronavirus in China. This discovery further highlighted the significance of live animal markets that contain wild animal species together at high density with domestic animals and people, as a mechanism for zoonotic disease emergence.
Dr. Epstein holds adjunct faculty positions at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology; Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Tufts School of Medicine; and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. His work has been published in several leading scientific journals including Emerging Infectious Diseases, PLoS Pathogens, Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, The Journal of Applied Ecology, and Science. He has been an invited speaker at meetings held by the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization. He holds advisory positions on two committees in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN): the Veterinary Specialist Group and the Bat Specialist Group.
Jon received his PhD in Disease Ecology from Kingston University, London in 2017. Jon received his DVM and MPH from The Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Tufts School of Medicine’s Graduate Programs in Public Health after completing a four-year combined program. He was the first graduate to receive the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine Certificate in International Veterinary Medicine, after completing a specialty program that provided practical training in field-based international scientific research.
In 2006, Dr. Epstein became the first alumnus from Tufts University to be inducted into the Delta Omega Honors Society for excellence in the field of Public Health. In 2007, he received the Outstanding Alumnus award from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and the Young Alumni Achievment Award from Tufts University in 2012.
His work has been featured on 60 Minutes, The Discovery Channel, Discovery Health, The Science Channel, The National Geographic Channel, NBC Nightly News, and BBC Newshour, and in several periodicals including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, Scientific American, The Scientist, Science News, Discover, Newsweek, The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and National Geographic News.