Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Thomas Unnasch, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Unnasch, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joni Downs, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Benjamin Jacob, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andrea Morrison, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carl Boohene, Ph.D.


Ecological Niche, EEEV, GIS, Machine Learning, SLEV, WNV


West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEV) represent the two greatest endemic arboviral risks to the state of Florida. Currently, no approved human vaccine exists for the prevention of either virus. In the absence of a vaccine, effective disease surveillance is paramount for public health. In Florida, WNV and EEEV sentinel chicken surveillance is conducted by mosquito control programs operated at the county, municipality, or special taxing district level. This program was implemented in 1978 following human outbreaks of St. Louis Encephalitis virus (SLEV) that occurred between 1959 and 1977, with initial sentinel coops placed in proximity to documented cases of human SLEV. Since the implementation of the sentinel chicken surveillance program, WNV and EEEV have supplanted SLEV as the dominant disseminating viruses in Florida requiring an update to the sentinel program. This study was conducted to improve the existing program to address this need. The first part of this study involved the development of an ensemble ecological niche model (ENM) using spatiotemporal, climatic, and environmental data to create a WNV predictive model. The second part of the study involved an overlay analysis of the WNV ENM with a preexisting EEEV model to create a model indicating high probability locations for both WNV and EEEV within Florida. This overlay represents the first model specifically developed for the identification of high probability habitat of each pathogen. Its implementation would allow for improved WNV and EEEV detection, rapid vector intervention, with a subsequent reduction in the transmission of disease.