UR Biology Professor Jonathan Richardson Receives Grant for Research on Zoonotic Disease Risk in Richmond Rat Population

July 29, 2021

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — Jonathan Richardson, assistant professor of biology at the University of Richmond, has been awarded $100K from the Thomas F. and Kate Miller Jeffress Memorial Trust for his research on rodents and zoonotic disease risk in Richmond, Virginia. Jeffress Trust grants support research in chemical, medical, or other scientific fields.

Richardson and team Richardson and his research team, which includes UR undergraduate students, are addressing the problem of rat populations and related zoonotic diseases with the goal of lowering health risks. Richardson’s team will conduct the first-ever survey focused on rats in the Richmond area and the pathogens and parasites they carry.

"Rats are an important pest species to study because they can damage property, contaminate food, and transmit disease to people,” Richardson said. “Very little is really known about the rats in Richmond, including next to nothing about the zoonotic disease risk they may pose to residents.”

“As part of this research, we will identify the aspects of the urban environment that provide suitable habitat for these rats and provide a map of disease risk that public health authorities can use to target and reduce those risks,” Richardson added.

Richardson has taught at the University of Richmond since 2019. His work integrates ecology, evolution, and genomics to study urban ecology, epidemiology, and wildlife conservation in and around New York City, Providence, Rhode Island, Salvador, Brazil, and now, Richmond. Richardson has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the Southern New England Educational and Charitable Foundation, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Richardson and his research team are interested in partnering with local groups impacted by rat problems in Richmond and the surrounding counties. Contact him at jrichardson@richmond.edu to learn more or if interested in partnering.