Animal Science Department

College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Faculty and Staff

Dr. Heather Harris

Keela Retallick with two Angus cows

Veterinarian and Lecturer

Affiliated Faculty, Center for Coastal Marine Sciences


Area(s) of Study/Research:

Marine wildlife health, wildlife disease ecology, conservation medicine, One Health

Courses Taught:
ASCI 290/490 (Marine Mammal Health Enterprise)
Affiliated faculty, Cal Poly Center for Coastal Marine Sciences
BA   Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara (1996)
DVM   Wildlife Medicine track, University of California, Davis (2006)
MPVM   Wildlife Disease Ecology, University of California, Davis (2007)
Clinical Internship   Marine Mammal Medicine and Pathology (2007-2008)
Diplomate   American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine (2017)
Professional History and Research Interests
Dr. Harris is a wildlife veterinarian with a specialty in marine ecosystem health and preventive medicine. She uses an integrative One Health approach to study marine wildlife as sentinels for ocean and human health at the land-sea interface. Her research investigates local and global health threats to federally protected marine mammals and sea turtles, exposure to pollutants and biotoxins, and health impacts related to climate change. At Cal Poly, she has developed new hands-on interactive courses in marine mammal health and One Health topics.
In addition to teaching at Cal Poly, Dr. Harris serves as associate veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center based at the San Luis Obispo Operations where she provides veterinary care to sick and injured marine mammals, participates in field research, and assists with oiled wildlife response. For the past 15 years she has also served as the lead contract veterinarian for the NOAA Marine Turtle Program where she provides veterinary support to the west coast stranding network and conducts collaborative sea turtle health research with federal, state, and non-profit partners.
Dr. Harris received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Environmental Studies. She completed a dual degree program at the University of California, Davis, receiving her veterinary medical degree and masters in preventive veterinary medicine with a focus in wildlife disease ecology. She did a clinical internship in marine mammal medicine and pathology at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. She is a board-certified diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, a discipline that recognizes the health connections between animals, humans, and our shared environment.
Professional memberships include the Wildlife Disease Association, International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine, International Sea Turtle Society, American Veterinary Medical Association, and American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.
Selected Papers:

Miller, M, P. Duignan, E. Dodd, F. Batac, M, Staedler, J. Tomoleoni, M. Murray, H. Harris, and C. Gardiner. 2020. Emergence of a zoonotic pathogen in a coastal marine sentinel: Capillaria hepatica (syn. Calodium hepaticum)-associated hepatitis in southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis). Frontiers in Marine Science 7:335 doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00335

Avens, L., L. Goshe, G. Zug, G. Balazs, S. Benson, and H. Harris. 2020. Regional comparison of leatherback sea turtle maturation attributes and reproductive longevity. Marine Biology 167:4.

Work, T., J. Dagenais, B. Stacy, J. Ladner, J. Lorch, G. Balazs, E. Barquero-Calvo, B. Berlowski-Zier, R. Breeden, N. Corrales-Gomez, R. Gonzalez-Barrientos, H. Harris, G. Hernandez-Mora, A. Herrera-Ulloa, S. Hesami, T. Jones, J. Morales, T. Norton, R. Rameyer, D. Taylor, and T. Walzek. 2019. A novel host-adapted strain of Salmonella Typhimurium causes renal disease in olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) in the Pacific. Scientific Reports 9:9313.

H. Harris, M. Flint, K. Stewart, and C. Harms. 2017. Field Techniques. In Sea Turtle Health and Rehabilitation: A Complete Veterinary Guide, 1st edition (eds. Manire, Norton, Stacy, Harms, Innis). J Ross Publishing Inc., Plantation, FL. ISBN 13: 978-1-60427-099-0 (In Press).

Deem, S. and H. Harris. 2017. Health assessments. In Sea Turtle Health and Rehabilitation: A Complete Veterinary Guide, 1st edition (eds. Manire, Norton, Stacy, Harms, Innis). J. Ross Publishing Inc., Plantation, FL. ISBN 13: 978-1-60427-099-0 (In Press).

Ferguson, S, J. Wellehan, S. Frasca, C. Innis, H. Harris, M. Miller, E. Weber, H. Walden, E. Greiner, C. Merigo, and B. Stacy. 2016. Coccidial infection of the adrenal glands of leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). Journal of Wildlife Diseases doi:

 Harris, H., S. Benson, M. James, K. Martin, B. Stacy, P. Daoust, P. Rist, T. Work, G. Balazs, and J. Seminoff. 2016. Validation of ultrasound as a noninvasive tool to measure subcutaneous fat depth in leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 47(1): 275-279.

Stacy B, C Innis, P Daoust, J Wyneken, M Miller, H Harris, M James, E Christiansen, and A Foley. 2014. Solitary large intestinal diverticulitis in leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). Veterinary Pathology Online DOI: 10.1177/0300985814549211.

Harris H, S Benson, K Gilardi, R Poppenga, P Dutton, T Work, and J Mazet. 2011. Comparative health assessment of Western Pacific leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) foraging off the coast of California. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 47(2):321-337.

Harris H, P Facemire, D Greig, K Colegrove, G Ylitalo, G Yanagida, M Fleetwood, F Nutter, and F Gulland. 2011. Congenital neuroglial heterotopia in a neonatal harbor seal (Phoca vitulina richardsi) with evidence of recent petroleum exposure. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 47(1):246-254.

Harris H, S Oates, M Staedler, M Tinker, D Jessup, J Harvey, and M Miller. 2010. Lesions associated with forced copulation of juvenile harbor seals by southern sea otters. Aquatic Mammals 36(4):331-341. DOI 10.1578/AM.36.4.2010.219

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