Profile: Marilyn O’Hara Ruiz

Dr. Marilyn Ruiz, Clinical Associate Professor, in the Division of Epidemiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL USA. Marilyn’s research interests are in the synthesis of critical factors related to disease transmission, including conditions and characteristics of places that are associated with illness.

Marilyn Ruiz’s educational background is in geography (BA, MA, University of Illinois; PhD, University of Florida). She has been particularly interested in how the environmental conditions and changes in the environment over time affects the health of ecosystems and in disease transmission. Her work on spatial risk models of West Nile virus (WNV) in people, birds and mosquitoes and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in white-tail deer in Illinois, is a natural fit for her present affiliations. Prior to migrating to Illinois, Marilyn was an Assistant Professor of Geography at Florida State University. She has also worked as a research geographer for the US Army Corps of Engineers at the Construction Engineering Research Lab in Champaign, Illinois.

Dr. Ruiz’s research focuses on the development and application of geographical methodologies, including spatial modeling, cartographic visualization, and a variety of statistical analysis tools. Her work spans academic disciplines, and she often works in a multidisciplinary team with entomologists, ecologists, veterinarians and doctors. Her work has included the development of risk maps of mosquito and human infections over time as West Nile virus has become established in Illinois and elsewhere. She has focused on how hydrology, weather patterns, and vegetation in urban areas affect the WNV transmission cycle. She is involved with mapping and spatial analysis of CWD in deer, investigating how soil and vegetation characteristics are related to CWD hotspots and the change in prevalence in light of intensive culling. Other work focuses on neighborhood health effects of Brownfield redevelopment, interaction of people and bats as it relates to risk of rabies, and the use of spatial technology for One Health: an integration of human, animal and ecosystem health. Marilyn teaches courses on Spatial Epidemiology and GIS for Health Applications, and presents workshops on GIS to public health personnel. Her goal is to make significant contributions to improving public health through better understanding of disease ecology and the effective use of spatial data and tools as applied to health. She has published widely in such outlets as Journal of Medical Systems, International Journal of Health Geographics, Environmental Health Perspectives, and the Journal of Medical Entomology.

She may be contacted at

Updated: February 2011