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



MPVM  Wildlife Disease Ecology, University of California, Davis (2007)

DVM     Wildlife Medicine track, University of California, Davis (2006)

BS        Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara (1996)

Professional History and Research Interests

Dr. Harris completed a combined degree program at University of California, Davis and received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine degrees with a focus in wildlife health. She then completed an intensive clinical internship in marine mammal medicine and pathology at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. She obtained specialty board certification in the American College of Veterinary Preventative Medicine."

Dr. Harris uses an interdisciplinary One Health approach to investigate the health of marine wildlife as sentinels for ocean and human health. Her research focuses on population health assessment, toxin exposure, and threats to mortality of federally protected marine species. At Cal Poly, she has expanded the traditional curriculum by developing new hands-on courses in marine mammal health and animal shelter medicine in partnership with local non-profit organizations. In addition to teaching, Dr. Harris works as a wildlife veterinarian for the NOAA Fisheries Marine Turtle Program in the West Coast Region. She also provides veterinary expertise to local, national, and international collaborators on marine mammal and sea turtle capture operations, field research, mass stranding events, rehabilitation efforts, postmortem investigations, and oil spill response. Locally, she serves at the site contract veterinarian for The Marine Mammal Center at the San Luis Obispo Field Office and part-time surgeon at Woods Humane Society.

Professional memberships include the Wildlife Disease Association, International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine, International Sea Turtle Society, and American Veterinary Medical Association.


Selected Publications:

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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