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Jonathon Gass

School: Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Department: Infectious Disease and Global Health

Research Interests: Conservation and Ecology, Animal Science, Public Health

TIE Affiliation

Environmental Research Fellowship


During migration, seabirds are exposed to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and heavy metals through food sources, many of which have deleterious effects on the avian immune system. In this study, nested within a larger research project focused on Influenza A viruses (IAVs) among seabirds in the North Atlantic, we will research environmental contaminant exposures among gulls in Iceland using feathers collected from 2010-2018. Avian feathers, which bioaccumulate contaminants acquired through dietary sources, are increasingly sourced as a minimally invasive alternative to tissue sampling. Trends in contaminant exposures between long-distance migrants and gulls native to Iceland are currently unknown. In addition, no peer-reviewed study has identified associations between contaminant exposures and IAVs in wild birds. To address these gaps, we will a) investigate exposures to POPs and heavy metals among seabirds migrating between southern latitudes and Iceland, and b) investigate population-level associations between contaminant exposures and IAV infection.


Jonathon is a PhD candidate at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in the Infectious Disease and Global Health department. He expects to complete his studies in May 2021. Jonathon earned his B.A. in International Affairs at George Washington University and his MPH at Columbia University. Prior to coming to Tufts, he worked as the Lead for Monitoring and Evaluation at Ariadne Labs, a global health systems research organization at the T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health. In this role, he developed monitoring systems for global health research programs utilizing mHealth strategies and real-time bioinformatics. Previous to this, Jonathon worked as an Epidemiologist for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders developing research and monitoring protocols, and conducting infectious disease investigations related to MDR/XDR-TB, visceral and cutaneous Leishmaniasis, and HIV. He has worked in Swaziland, India, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. Jonathon started at Tufts in Fall 2017 as a PhD student and also as research staff on the USAID-funded Emerging Pandemic Threats 2.0: One Health Workforce project. This project ended in January 2020. Currently, Jonathon is the graduate student representative on the Advanced Educational Committee at Tufts Vet.

Current Studies and Future Goals

When asked what he found most meaningful about his field of study, Jonathon responded with the following: “Prior to joining Tufts, my research was fully focused on human global health issues related to infectious disease. I was, however drawn specifically to infectious diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans, or zoonotic diseases. I joined the PhD program at Tufts Vet specifically to bridge my human global public health experience with non-human animal epidemiology, virology, and molecular biology to ultimately pursue a research career in zoonotic disease interface transmission dynamics. I find meaning in this with the strong focus on One Health at Tufts Vet and my ability to gain expertise in pathogens and diseases that cross species in this program of study. Finally, I have gained an increased understanding and appreciation of the interconnectedness between humans, animals, and the environment in this program. We desperately need to adjust the commonly held perspective that human, animal, and environmental health are disconnected areas of inquiry and focus more strongly on planetary health to address emerging infectious diseases.”

When asked what interested him in becoming a TIE Fellow, Jonathon responded with the following: “I was interested to apply for the TIE fellowship because I have seen that environmental health is often underrepresented in One Health. It has been demonstrated that environmental contaminants greatly impact the immune systems of humans and animals, therefore the health of our environments must be considered when addressing zoonotic disease dynamics. Additionally, bird feathers are excellent biomonitoring tools for contaminants in the environment, and very little evidence has been generated to demonstrate the link between pollutants and infectious disease in wildlife.”

After Tufts, Jonathon plans to apply for university faculty positions in infectious disease epidemiology and infectious disease ecology. Additionally, he plans to continue working and volunteering for humanitarian and inter-governmental organizations, focusing on emerging infectious disease preparedness, response, and control.

Fun Facts!

When not doing school work, Jonathon is very interested in food, food studies, cooking, and vegetable gardening. He studies Thai and French. Additionally, he is an avid hiker and adventure traveler.

Favorite food/drink: Laab

Favorite movie/TV show: 90 Day Fiancé

Favorite song/artist: Penguin Prison

Favorite place you've visited: Thailand

Favorite thing you've seen: My dog catching a frisbee

Favorite course taken at Tufts: Molecular Biology

Dream job: Epidemiology Advisor for an International Organization