Climate Change and Infectious Disease Speaker Series: Climate Change and Zoonotic Spillovers

June 27, 2023

University of Toronto's annual Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Research Day


How is climate change shifting and accelerating the spread of infectious diseases around the world? What are some of the impacts on societies, economics, and human and ecological health? Together with Climate Positive Energy (CPE) and the Institute for Pandemics (IfP), the Emerging and Pandemic Infections Consortium is pleased to co-host this public speaker series focused on climate change, infectious diseases and pandemics.

The third and final part of our series will focus on the impact of climate change on pathogen spillovers from animals to humans. Join infectious disease physician and medical microbiologist Samira Mubareka (Sunnybrook Research Institute) for a keynote presentation about climate change and zoonotic spillovers.

Following the keynote, there will be a panel discussion with Mubareka, Nelson Lee (Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto) and Ian Hamilton (Professor, University College London) moderated by Kate Allen, the climate change reporter at The Toronto Star.

About the participants

Samira Mubareka

Samira Mubareka

Sunnybrook Research Institute

Samira Mubareka, MD, is currently a virologist, medical microbiologist and infectious disease physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and an associate professor in the department of laboratory medicine and pathobiology at the University of Toronto. Mubareka has been working on SARS-CoV-2 since the outset of the pandemic with a focus on virus biology, bioaerosols, genomics and wildlife surveillance. She is currently focused on understanding the biology and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and on coronavirus and influenza virus zoonotic spillover.

Nelson Lee

Nelson Lee

Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Nelson Lee, MD, MBBS, is a professor and the interim director of the Institute for Pandemics at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Lee as been deeply involved in the research on emerging infectious diseases, epidemics and pandemics for almost two decades. With an interdisciplinary approach, he has conducted a wide range of studies to understand the epidemiology, disease burden, health outcomes, transmission modes and prevention, as well as antiviral and vaccine effectiveness against viral respiratory infections. His research is referenced by international health authorities, contributing to the prevention and control of epidemic viral diseases including coronavirus and influenza.

Ian Hamilton

Ian Hamilton

University College London


Ian Hamilton is Professor of Energy, Environment and Health at the UCL Energy Institute, University College London, Adjunct Professor at the Physical & Environmental Sciences, University of Toronto, Scarborough, and Non-Resident Fellow at CGEP, Columbia University. Ian’s research is focused on the nexus of energy, environment, and health in the built environment. This includes global building stock decarbonization transition policy, mitigation actions and determinants of environmental exposures in the built environment, and health impacts and wellbeing. Ian has published over 80 peer reviewed articles and is the lead author of the Buildings Global Status Report, UNEP’s flagship report on building decarbonization. Ian is the Mitigation Chair for the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, a collaboration of 35 leading research institutions around the world to track the progress of addressing climate change and its impacts on health. Ian also leads the IEA Technology Collaboration Partnership for the Energy in Buildings and Communities’ Annex 70 (Building Energy Epidemiology), is a co-investigator on the UKRI Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, the climate and air pollution NERC APEx London Air Pollution, ANTICIPATE and TRANSITION projects, British Council funded Capability and Energy Poverty project, among others. Ian is a Senior Advisor to Sustainable Energy for All and the UN Environment Programme.

Kate Allen

Kate Allen

The Toronto Star


Kate Allen is a reporter for the Toronto Star who writes about climate change and the environment. She has been reporting on science for more than ten years, and covered the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in January 2020.  Her work has been nominated for numerous journalism awards. Her most memorable assignment was necropsying a dead, rotting blue whale that had drifted to shore on the western coast of Newfoundland. Kate studied Classics and Philosophy, including Latin and Ancient Greek, at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and holds a Masters of Journalism from the University of British Columbia. She was born and raised in Toronto and lives there still with her family.

About the organizers

The Climate Positive Energy (CPE) Initiative is the University of Toronto’s centre for interdisciplinary clean energy research. Climate Positive Energy research teams are developing social, scientific, technical, economic, and policy solutions to transform energy systems, ensure equitable energy access and production, and help Canada become a global clean-energy model. CPE facilitates collaborative research, builds partnerships, promotes knowledge translation, and provides training opportunities for students and faculty. We also support existing sustainable energy and climate change initiatives across the University, including U of T’s Climate Positive Plan by 2050. CPE activity extends the University’s impact by integrating U of T’s various clean energy research and training endeavours with the University’s sustainable infrastructure projects.

The Emerging and Pandemic Infections Consortium (EPIC) is a partnership between the University of Toronto and five hospital research partners — The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) Research Institute, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Sinai Health, Sunnybrook Research Institute, Unity Health Toronto and the University Health Network. Building on our momentum in combating pathogens including SARS-CoV-2, EPIC brings together researchers from different disciplines to facilitate an integrated and innovative response to high-risk, high-burden infectious diseases. EPIC is Canada’s leading initiative for transformative infectious diseases research, linking academic researchers with industry and government partners, training the next generation of research leaders and advocating for science-based policies. Together, we will help prevent future pandemics and advance national and global health for decades to come. To join or learn more about EPIC, visit us online at or follow us on Twitter @UofTEPIC.

The Institute for Pandemics (IfP) is a University of Toronto Institutional Strategic Initiative supported by the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Science, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto Mississauga, and Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. IfP draws from the University’s diverse expertise to incorporate complex skill sets, from epidemiology, mathematical modelling, medicine, evolutionary biology, social sciences, pharmacy, management, engineering, to health economics and many other disciplines to address the multidimensional challenges of pandemics. We emphasize transdisciplinary research and foster cross-disciplinary learning to equip our future health leaders with broad-based knowledge and a holistic approach to tackle pandemics. The Institute seeks to transform pandemic research and training by focusing on three cross-cutting themes: Pandemic Readiness, Pandemic Resilience, and Pandemic Recovery. To join or learn more about IfP, visit or follow us on Twitter @UofT_Pandemics or LinkedIn.