UMass Boston


Nichola Hill

Assistant Professor
ISC Floor 03 03120


I am an ecologist who studies how diseases emerge from animal reservoirs in an increasingly man-made world (ie. the Anthropocene). Depending on the day, you can call me a disease ecologist, virologist, field biologist, or even a bird nerd. I particularly love studying viruses. Viruses evolve rapidly (much faster than cellular-life forms) so they make an excellent study system for testing theories of ecology and evolution.

Area of Expertise

Emerging Infectious Disease, Viruses, Evolution, Animal Ecology, Global Health, Bioinformatics, Field Ecology


PhD, Biology. Macquarie University – Sydney, Australia (2009).

BSc (Hons), Ecology. University of New South Wales – Sydney, Australia (2002).

Professional Publications & Contributions

Additional Information


The key to the success of viruses is simple: trial and error. Viruses constantly make mistakes during replication, allowing for fine-tuning of their fitness when faced with a novel host phenotype, and it has proven to be a winning strategy. These are microscopic critters that time-and-time again bring us Homo sapiens to our knees due to the evolution of pandemic strains, such as Influenza and SARS-CoV-2 (ie. Covid-19). Understanding and predicting how spillover from animals to humans happens – at the molecular, cellular, organismal and macro-ecological scale – is a key question that guides my work.

Courses Taught

  • Science Communication
  • Virology
  • Global Health

Research Interests

My lab uses high-throughput molecular screening to characterize pathogens at the human-animal interface coupled with bioinformatics, virological assays and statistical modelling to identify the ecological and anthropogenic drivers of the evolution, spread and transmission of disease. I study a diverse array of pathogens (SARS-CoV-2, Influenza A Virus, Cryptosporidium, Toxoplasma, West Nile Virus) in an effort to find solutions for the control of disease in countries across the globe. A constant theme of my career has been leading field surveillance in remote or understudied parts of the world including Mongolia, Egypt, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Alaska and Zambia to characterize the growing interface between animals and humans. An important motivation for my lab is to be in service of poor, displaced or migrant human populations and navigate tensions that arise between financial or food security and ecosystem health.

Research Positions

  • 2021- present. Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Boston.
  • 2017-2021. Research Assistant Professor, Department of Infectious Disease & Global Health, Tufts University.
  • 2012-2017. Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Biological Engineering. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 2009-2011. Surveillance Team Coordinator (Bangladesh, Mongolia, Egypt), United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization, Rome.
  • 2008-2011. Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis.
  • 2008-2011. Postdoctoral Researcher, San Francisco Bay Estuary Field Station, U.S. Geological Survey.

Personal Activities

  • Climate Justice
  • Social Justice
  • Birding