Animal Science Department

College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Faculty and Staff

Laura Backus, MPH, DVM, PhD, DACVPM

Office:  Bldg 10, Rm 139

Phone:  (805) 756-0669



BS Biology—Colorado State University

MPH (Epidemiology focus)—Colorado School of Public Health

DVM—Colorado State University

PhD (Epidemiology)—University of California, Davis

Dr. Laura Backus is an Assistant Professor of One Health at CalPoly, where her teaching and research focus on the relationship between human, animal, and environmental health. She grew up in western Washington State, then completed her bachelor’s degree, masters in public health, and veterinary medicine degrees at Colorado State University. After practicing small animal medicine for a few years, she returned to school, this time pursuing a PhD in Epidemiology at the University of California, Davis. Her doctoral and post-doctoral research there focused on tick-borne diseases that are shared between humans and animals, particularly Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a disease that can be fatal to both humans and dogs. Through this research and related projects, she had the opportunity to work with domestic dogs and wildlife throughout southern California and Baja California, Mexico.

At Cal Poly, Dr. Backus is looking forward to mentoring students interested in the relationship between human and animal health, as well as collaborating with students and faculty on research dedicated to One Health issues. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, running, bicycling, eating… and looking for ticks while hiking and running.


Backus, L; Foley, J; Chung, C; Virata, C; Zazueta, OE; López-Pérez, AM. 2023. Tick-borne pathogens in sheltered dogs at California-Mexico border locations during an emerging epidemic of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a One Health challenge. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 261(3): 375-383.  

Backus, L; Foley, JE; Hobbs, G; Bai, Y; Beati, L. 2022. A new species of tick, Ixodes (Ixodes) mojavensis (Acari: Ixodidae), from the Amargosa Valley of California. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases 13(6): 102020.  

Backus, L; Pascoe, EL; Foley, J. 2022. Will new ticks invade North America? How to identify future invaders. Trends in Parasitology 38: 805-814.  

López-Pérez, AM, Pesapane, R., Clifford, D.L., Backus, L., Foley, P., Voll, A., Silva, R.B., Foley, J. 2022. Host species and environment drivers of ectoparasite community of rodents in a Mojave Desert wetlands. PLOS ONE 17: e0269160. 

López-Pérez, AM, López-Fernández, O., Backus, L., Somerville, S., Zarza, H., Cassaigne, I., de la Torre, A., Nuñez-Perez, R., Ceballos, G., Guzmán-Cornejo, C., Ringenbach-Valdez, S., del Rio, M.A., Sánchez-Montes, S., Canek Anguiano, D., Foley, J., 2022. Spatial distribution patterns of tick community structure in sympatric jaguars (Panthera onca) and pumas (Puma concolor) from three ecoregions in Mexico. Medical and Veterinary Entomology 36: 371–380. 

Backus, L; Lopez Perez, AM; Foley, JE. 2021. Effect of temperature on host preference in two lineages of the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineusAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 104(5): 2305-2311.  

Backus, L; Foss, L; Tell, L. 2019. West Nile virus in hummingbirds in California, USA, 2005-2017. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 55(4): 903-907.   

Duncan, C; Backus, L; Lynn, T; Powers, B; Salman, M. 2008. Passive, opportunistic wildlife disease surveillance in the Rocky Mountain region, USA. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases 55(7): 308–14. 

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