Combined DVM/PhD Program

Nick Ledesma, DVM, Ph.D.

Nick Ledesma

Faculty Mentor: Laura Harrington
Current Position: Serology Section Head, USDA APHIS (Ames, Iowa)

Brief Biography
Animals, science, and nature have always been a part of Nick's life, and this interest motivated him to begin his studies at Cornell University as an undergraduate student majoring in both Animal Science and Entomology. Through his academic and extracurricular experiences in these fields, Nick grew to appreciate scientific research and to understand that it could be incorporated into his goal of becoming a veterinarian. Nick applied and was accepted into the Combined Degree Program at Cornell, and recently completed the PhD portion of the program in the laboratory of Dr. Laura Harrington investigating the mosquito ecology and epidemiology of heartworm transmission.
In his spare time, Nick enjoys finding new things to enjoy in Ithaca and the surrounding area, and taking care of his many pets including two cats, a tarantula, and a piebald ball python.

DVM, Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, 2016
PhD, Comparative Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University, 2014
B.S., Animal Science, Entomology, Cornell University

Research Interests
My research focuses on incorporating the biology and ecology of mosquitoes as an important factor in characterizing transmission risk of dog heartworm to domestic animals and wildlife. Although mosquitoes are the only known vectors of Dirofilaria immitis, the causative agent of dog heartworm, mosquito species and geographic strains vary in their vector efficiency and contact with suitable hosts of the nematode. Because of these differences, pinpointing the key vector species of heartworm in an area can help determine the best means by which to reduce incidence of heartworm in a population of domestic dogs or other hosts. I have used both field and laboratory methods to address these issues including intensive field collection and trapping of mosquitoes, host determination of wild-caught blood fed mosquitoes via DNA barcoding techniques, and laboratory infection assays of D. immitis in Ae. aegypti and other mosquito vector species. With my final collection season approaching, I plan to combine these and other techniques to form a more nuanced understanding of the role of mosquito vectors in predicting the risk of dog heartworm, and to develop a framework by which the ecology of other vector-borne diseases could be investigated.

Publications and Presentations
Ledesma N, Harrington L. Mosquito vectors of dog heartworm in the United States: vector status and factors influencing transmission efficiency. Topics in Companion Animal Medicine 2011 26(4): 178-85.

Presented poster "Development of a comprehensive framework for understand heartworm transmission risk in the United States" at the 10th Annual Biological and Biomedical Sciences Symposium at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (Aug. 2012) and at the Society of Vector Ecology conference (Sep. 2012).