Maria Luisa Espinel Ramos

Working title: Urban health ecology and biodiversity at the animal-human health nexus: dynamics of zoonoses in urban and peri-urban areas
Research countries: Germany
Research themes: Ecology of health, Urban health, Zoonosis dynamics, Social determinants of health, tick-borne diseases


Veterinarian (Universidad Nacional de Colombia), Master in Technology and Resources Management (TH Köln - Germany), Master in Sustainability Science, Policy and Society (Maastricht University – The Netherlands), with expertise in animal health management in relation to complex aspects such as the impact of animal husbandry on the environment and the interconnections between ecological and social factors. Consultant for good agricultural practices and advocate for animal welfare with a holistic approach to health, sustainable development and society.


The spill-over of infectious diseases from animals to humans is the result of natural evolutionary processes and adaptation mechanisms of pathogens, vectors and hosts to new habitat conditions created by human activities, such as changes in land use, livestock production, miss-use of antimicrobial drugs and introduction of exotic species. In urban habitats, factors such as biodiversity loss and climate change disrupt the ecology of pathogens and trigger mechanisms for pathogen adaptation and potential transmission to humans.

Urban areas encompass many ecological and social elements, where dense animal and human populations with close and frequent interactions coincide. Consequently, exposure to spill-overs depends on the location and frequency of these interactions and on human behaviour, conditioned by socio-economic factors, social norms and community dynamics. These complex dynamics at the environment-animal-human interface and infectious disease processes are not fully understood. Therefore, the prediction and prevention of emerging zoonotic diseases must be addressed in research through the analysis of socio-ecological systems combined with health and environmental aspects in the framework of "One Health".

The post-industrial urban landscape of the Ruhr region (Germany), characterised by a diversity of natural and man-made elements, is an interesting area for the research of these complex dynamics of zoonoses. In high-income countries, zoonoses occur mainly indirectly through insect vectors or the food system. Therefore, Lyme disease involving the interaction of pathogens, vectors (ticks), domestic and wild animal hosts, climatic factors and human social behaviour is analysed. The aim is to identify the main anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic determinant risk factors and the potential foci of zoonotic infections in various urban and peri-urban areas. This information is useful for the elaboration of zoonotic disease prevention schemes and the development of policies and urban planning strategies focused on the protection of the environment and human-animal health.



Prof. Christian Borgemeister (ZEF)

Prof. Wiltrud Terlau (HBRS)


Phone: +49 228 / 73 - 6726

Email: mespinel(at)

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