Dinner Lecture: Conservation with communities

What: Join ZAWS for a lecture from the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) veterinary team as part of the JGI Republic of Congo Program! Dr. Rebeca Atencia and Sofia Fernandez will discuss JGI initiatives in Congo as well as their experiences in conservation and global veterinary medicine.  Bring your own plates and utensils.

When: Tuesday March 13th, 6:00 PM

Where: Lecture Hall 4, the vet school

Six speakers discuss different aspects of conservation medicine at the first annual Wildlife Health Day

Dr. Elizabeth Buckles discussing the histopathology of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease affecting North American bats.

Zack Dvornicky-Raymond DVM (’19)

On Saturday, six speakers shared their experiences in conservation, wildlife, and One Health. The topics were wide-ranging, covering conservation of endangered species, zoo animal nutrition, plastic waste, and honeybee health. For every topic, the speakers highlighted the importance of wildlife health and the role of the veterinarian.

Zack Dvornicky-Raymond (’19), kicked off Wildlife Health Day with a talk that drew from both his personal experience and his knowledge of the conservation field. Zack first described his Expanding Horizons experience in Namibia where he used his veterinary skills to help the Cheetah Conservation Fund with their guard dog breeding program. He then discussed Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) and their use in breeding endangered species, drawing from his experience studying canine reproduction at the Travis Lab. Zack also drew from his experience at the Smithsonian, where he investigated better ways to transport sperm for the endangered Przewalski’s horse, information critical for preserving the genetic diversity of the species. Zack then discussed the role of contraception-based wildlife management, before finishing off with a reflection about the impact of human population growth on the state of the natural environment.

Dr. Sara Childs-Sanford discussed the unique challenges of managing nutrition in captive wildlife. Many of the nutritional problems that zoo animals face stem from our lack of knowledge of the specific nutritional requirements for these understudied species. Dr. Childs-Sanford did leave the audience with some solutions, citing successful attempts in nutrition research: improving the reproductive success of maned wolves and helping pangolins survive in captivity.

Mariah Beck (’20)

Drawing on her research and coursework, Mariah Beck (’20) shifted the focus to environmental health with her talk on our use and waste of plastic, and its effect on ocean life. She cited three main ways that plastic waste harms marine animals: entanglement, ingestion, and toxicity. Not only do plastics harm iconic species like whales and turtles, but their toxicity also harms animals like mussels which provide important ecosystem services. Mariah called on veterinarians to advocate for reducing the amount of plastic waste in the ocean and pitched ideas to help achieve this goal.

Dr. Elizabeth Buckles dove into a case study on white-nose syndrome in bats, drawing from her own experience as a veterinary pathologist who helped identify the cause of the outbreak. This inspired several principles for working with understudied species including “know your species,” “reach out to experts,” and “be creative.” Dr. Buckles finished with several wildlife pathology anecdotes, including one about how the CDC ignored warnings from veterinarians about the arrival of West Nile Virus to the United States. These examples illustrated the need for veterinarians to speak up to protect both human and wildlife health.

The conversation moved to honeybee health when Dr. Robin Radcliffe gave a lecture on colony collapse and the light that wild honeybee colonies can shed on it. Curiously, wild honeybee populations have not suffered from all of the problems that face captive bee colonies. For instance, as Dr. Radcliffe explained, wild honeybees have developed behavioral immunity to the Varroa mite which has devastated captive bee populations. His main  message was that there is a need for greater monitoring of colony health by the veterinary community, something the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine is facilitating by adding a new distribution course on apiary medicine.

Dr. Sharon Deem speaks at Wildlife Health Day 2018.

Dr. Sharon Deem, wildlife veterinarian for the St. Louis Zoo, finished off the day as the keynote speaker. She rehashed many of the issues brought up by other speakers, while also sharing her perspective on the most important issues in wildlife health. Dr. Deem emphasized One Health, drawing on her research on diseases of camels being used as livestock in Kenya.  She left the audience with advice for future wildlife veterinarians.

Wildlife Health day drew dozens of vet students and faculty, giving members of the Cornell Veterinary community a chance to learn about the opportunities and challenges within the field. These types of events aim to increase levels of awareness and emphasize the importance of veterinarians in conservation and One Health.

Dinner Lecture: Conseration of Przewalski’s Horses in the Great Gobi B

Dr. Christian Walzer, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society and head of Conservation Medicine at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria will present a 50min talk to the Cornell Graduate Community on his work with Przewalski Horse Conservation in the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, a nature preserve in South-Western Mongolia.

Also joining Dr. Walzer will by Dr. PK Robbins Walzer, a clinical veterinarian with over 25 years experience in a wide variety of zoological collections, including zoos in Los Angeles, San Diego and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Dr. Walzer’s talk will be followed by a Q & A with both Dr. Walzer and Dr. Robbins Walzer to discuss general aspects of careers in conservation and zoo medicine.

When: Thursday, February 15 at 5:30 PM

Where: LH4, the vet school

RSVP here or through the email sent out on the ZAWS listserv

About Przewalski’s horses:
The Przewalski’s horse, called “Takhi” in Mongolian, is an endangered species of wild equid native to the steppes of central Asia. It became extinct in the wild and has only survived due to captive breeding. The Przewalski’s horse has now been reintroduced to its native range and is the target of numerous conservation efforts. Unlike the American mustang, which is descended from feral domestic horses, the Przewalski’s horse is a unique species of equid which has never been domesticated. It remains the only true wild horse in the world today.

Webinar: The Role of Tropical Secondary Forests in Conservation and Restoration

What:  A joint webinar sponsored by the Society for Ecological Restoration and the ATBC.  You can sign-up to watch it by going to http://tropicalbiology.org/career-development/webinars/role-secondary-forests/.

When: Thursday, Dec 14, 2017 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM EST

More Details:

Secondary forest regrowth following agricultural land use represents a major feature of human-modified landscapes across the tropics. International interest is growing regarding the importance of secondary forests for biodiversity conservation, for large-scale reforestation programs, and for the role of these forests in mitigating effects of global climate change. In this webinar, researchers from different disciplines of social and natural science will discuss the importance of second-growth forests for conserving and restoring biodiversity, and recovering ecosystem functions and services. This webinar will address five key questions about the ecology, governance, landscape conditions, and social drivers of secondary tropical forests and the role these forests can play for conservation and restoration in the Anthropocene. The panel will include researchers from different disciplines of natural and social sciences that will discuss these aspects and pinpoint guidelines for future research and policies for conserving biodiversity and to restore degraded lands in human-modified landscapes across the world’s tropics.

Webinar topics and presenters:

Introduction: Why secondary forests? Why now?

Dr. F. Bongers, Ph.D., Senior Professor, Forest Ecology and Management Group, Wageningen University, Netherlands.

To what extent does second-growth forest represent an option for conserving biodiversity in human modified landscapes?

Dr. Robin Chazdon (forest ecologist), Professor Emerita, University of Connecticut, USA; Executive Director ATBC.

What are the key issues affecting governance and the fate of secondary forests as a tool for large-scale forest restoration in the tropics?

Dr. Manuel R. Guariguata (forest ecologist), CIFOR, Lima, Peru.

What are the knowledge gaps for better understanding of forest regrowth in tropical human modified landscapes?

Dr. Laura C. Schneider (biogeographer), Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

How is natural regeneration affected by landscape conditions and how this is important for considering the role of NR in large-scale restoration?

Dr. Miguel Martínez-Ramos (forest ecologist): Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Morelia, Michoacan, México.

What social factors are associated with forest regrowth and how are these changing?

Dr. Thomas Rudel (sociologist), Senior Professor of Human Ecology at Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey.

How can strategic approaches to restoration maximize the benefits and synergies of secondary forests for conservation and ecosystem services?

Dr. Bernardo Strassburg (economist): Rio Conservation and Sustainability Science Centre (PUC-Rio University) & International Institute for Sustainability, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

EVENT: On The Wild Side: Navigating Conflict Between Private and Public Lion Conservation Interests at Antelope Park, Zimbabwe

Shanina Halbert will be giving an Expanding Horizons presentation on her experience in Zimbabwe.  Shanina will be making roasted squash and a traditional drink for the first 30 people.

When: Thursday, October 26 from 6-7 pm.

Where: S1-222, at the vet school

Focus on Planetary Health at the Tropical Biology and Conservation Lightning Symposium

The worlds of veterinary medicine, public health, conservation, and ecology came together during Saturday’s Tropical Biology and Conservation Lightning Symposium.  The symposium consisted of 23 five minute talks, given by veterinary students, graduate students, undergraduate students, and professors.  Dr. Steven Osofsky DVM, Jay Hyman Professor of  Wildlife Health & Health Policy, gave the hour-long keynote speech.

Dr. Steve Osofsky discussing human health as an opportunity for conservationists.

Dr. Osofsky discussed a wide range of topics from Canine Distemper in Amur tigers, to rhino conservation, to Foot and Mouth Disease in African livestock.  The presentation shifted to a human focus as he discussed how economically disadvantaged areas benefit greatly from ecosystem services.  Osofsky spoke about Dr. Christopher Golden’s research in Madagascar, which showed how villages with low levels of wildlife had higher rates of childhood anemia.  Some of the villages had allowed outsiders to hunt the local wildlife, reducing the amount of bush meat available for the local population.  Dr. Osofsky noted that “by educating the villages themselves, they all of a sudden saw wildlife as relevant to the future of their entire family lineage.”  He concluded his talk by explaining the term “Planetary Health” and emphasizing the opportunity that human health provides to conservationists.

Sarah Balik discussing her research on Chimpanzee respiratory diseases.

For the rest of the symposium, students gave five minute “lightning talks” on their research in different fields.  Veterinary student Sarah Balik (’19) presented her work with the Jane Goodall Institute in Uganda on respiratory diseases in chimpanzees.  In the spirit of planetary health, she compared data collected from locals during health screenings to data on respiratory diseases in wild chimpanzees, to determine the relationship between human-chimpanzee contact and disease outbreaks.  Balik found that there was no correlation between the timing of outbreaks of human and chimpanzee respiratory disease.  “This is a preliminary epidemiological study, so further research needs to be done to determine what is causing so many chips to die of respiratory disease in Kibale. In addition, researchers and workers at the field site spend much more time in contact with the chimps. Foreign researchers weren’t included in the study and have the potential to bring diseases with them, so biosecurity measures also need to be taken to prevent researchers from transmitting disease to the chimpanzees they work with,” Balik said.

Melissa Hanson (’19), another vet student who worked through the Jane Goodall Institute, discussed her experience working with cardiologists on wild chimpanzees in the Republic of the Congo.  Several veterinary students talked about infectious disease, such as Eric Teplitz (’20) who presented his work in Malawi on the shedding patterns of Salmonella and Shigella in primates, Rachel Hilliard (’19) who discussed her research on tick-borne diseases in goats within Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, and William Fugina (’19) who worked with the World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia to study the vector biology of Trypanosoma evansi, a pathogen in water buffalo that threatens the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros.

Molly Chirunomula talking about her work with the Ara Project.

Molly Chirunomula (’19) worked with the Ara Project in Costa Rica, which aims to conserve local macaw species.  The center was unable to breed their great green macaws.  Molly conducted an intake study of the macaws’ diets to try to identify nutritional causes of poor reproductive success.  She found that the macaws were consuming low levels of fat, protein, and calcium, all of which are important for egg production.  Molly recommended a change in diet that would mimic the birds’ natural seasonal dietary variation, and exclude animal protein.  By implementing Molly’s recommendations, the Ara Project succeeded in breeding macaws by the next breeding season!

Zack Dvornicky-Raymond (’19) worked with the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, which serves to address a serious threat to the cheetah population: farmers hunting cheetahs to prevent them from killing livestock.  The Cheetah Conservation Fund breeds guard dogs for farmers, to give them an alternative way to protect their livestock.  When Zack started working with the organization, they were having difficulties breeding the dogs.  Zack, who has prior experience in canine reproduction through the Travis lab at Cornell, helped to diagnose the problems in their breeding program and develop protocols for more successful breeding in the future.

Robert Marquez explaining strategies for protecting the Andean bear.

Of the non-veterinary talks, some were aimed at wildlife conservation, such those of Robert Marquez, who studied conflicts between humans and Andean bears, and Steven Sevillano-Rios, who worked to identify conservation priorities in order to protect Peruvian birds.  Other talks were about basic science, such as Jay Falk’s presentation on female limited polymorphisms in hummingbirds.  Dr. James Lassoie finished off the five minute presentations with a critical discussion about the unintended consequences of conservationism.

Overall, the symposium successfully brought together researchers and students from across campus, tackling a diverse array of tropical conservation and ecological problems.  Many speakers emphasized the importance of working with local communities and other disciplines to achieve both conservation and human health goals.  Dr. Osofsky opined – “if we do this next year, I want to see more economists, students from the business school, communication students, social scientists…”  Hopefully, future symposia will further bridge the gap between disciplines, helping the academic community pursue One Health.

 

Complete list of speakers at the Tropical Biology and Conservation Symposium


Written by Jonathan Gorman, Events Journalist and Photographer, Class of 2021.

The Elephant Diaries, Part 1: Elvina Yau (2020)

Rising second year veterinary student Elvina Yau is in Chiang Mai, Thailand, conducting research on Asian elephants.  Over the next few weeks, she will be contributing a series of posts called The Elephant Diaries about her unforgettable experience!  Check out Elvina’s personal blog at Elvina The Explorer.


My name is Elvina Yau and I am a rising 2nd year veterinary student at Cornell. While my professional interests include Companion Animal Medicine and practice ownership, I am also passionate about wildlife conservation. Expanding Horizons was an excellent opportunity to further explore this realm in an international setting.

I partnered with the Elephant Research and Education Center (EREC) at Chiang Mai University Veterinary School to conduct research on Asian elephant welfare. EREC was founded in 2010 with the objectives of conserving the Asian elephant species and preserving the elephant-based culture that Thailand embodies. According to the IUCN Red List, Asian elephants are listed as Endangered. Currently, Thailand’s remaining wild population is estimated at roughly 2,000-4,000. Without significant changes, the number of elephants may critically decline to levels beyond restorability. The country’s industrial shift from logging to tourism after the 1989 commercial forestry ban marked the rise of elephant camps. Many Asian elephants and their mahouts (caretakers designated to individual elephants) who were once employed in logging and resorted to illegal street performing now live in tourist camps as rescues. These camps enable the elephants to roam freely and interact with visitors while providing employment for their mahouts. Inevitably, the standards of care provided at these tourist camps vary. The complexity of tourist camps arises from the fact that elephant rescues are given a place to live at these sites, but tourism generates the income needed to provide sustenance and veterinary care for these elephants.

My project specifically investigates how elephant foot health is affected by housing factors, which is a reflection of the management practices at various tourist camps. Conditions such as hard flooring substrates, high workloads, or excessive feeding have been associated with the development of foot abnormalities. By performing thorough physical examinations and working directly with mahouts, I’ve been able to inspect the limbs of multiple elephants and use a foot assessment checklist to score the severity of foot pathology on the toenails, interdigital spaces, and footpads. Our team then applied this data by providing facility and husbandry recommendations that will improve elephant welfare at these camps.

Foot pathology comprises one of the most prevalent health concerns afflicting Asian elephants. Since health is a useful indicator of animal welfare, the data gathered from this study can help inform targeted management modifications that can be implemented at these camps, reducing foot disease while enhancing the welfare of these elephants. Studying the relationships between housing conditions and elephant foot health and applying those findings are tasks that involve a collaborative effort between veterinarians, mahouts, and camp managerial staff. Pursuing this international service-learning experience demonstrates the organizational and teamwork skills critical in the interrelated nature of any research and conservation endeavor.

Through Expanding Horizons, I witnessed the daily operations of elephant camps and clinics while immersing myself in the sights and sounds of Thailand. The experience dovetailed a clinical and research component that enabled me to hone my skills both as a budding clinician and inquisitive scientist. Obtaining a first-hand view of Thailand through a unique veterinary lens ultimately allowed me to delve into a new facet of my career path while assisting EREC in their efforts to champion elephant welfare.

From this experience, I wanted to gain not only clinical knowledge, but also better understand the institutional factors and management strategies that wildlife conservation hinges upon. Veterinary care is essential to maintaining the health of the elephant herd, coupled with educating the global community about these issues in order to promote conservation efforts. At Chiang Mai, I was placed in an incredible position to help provide veterinary services to and conduct research on Asian elephants—a formative and intensive experience during which I learned about the complexities and joys of caring for numerous elephants, and what advocating on their behalf truly entails.

Participating in Expanding Horizons this summer therefore provided me with a unique opportunity to broaden my perspective of conservation medicine and truly explore the versatility of a DVM degree. As I progress on my veterinary career path and continue to cultivate my professional interests, I am excited to uncover what lies ahead.

Read Part 2 of the Elephant Diaries here.

Event: Monitoring Respiratory Disease in Wild Chimpanzees

Third year veterinary student Sarah Balik (2019) will present a lecture about her experience interning for the Jane Goodall Institute in Uganda through the Engaged Cornell Program this summer. Her project consisted of monitoring the health of wild chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, conducting a retrospective epidemiological analysis to understand the zoonotic potential of previous lethal respiratory disease outbreaks among the chimpanzees in Kibale, and serving the local forest adjacent communities by volunteering with a mobile medical unit to provide medical care to people who lack access to doctors. Come to this lecture to see how wildlife health, public health and One Health concepts have real world implications!

This lecture is part of the Conservation with Communities for One Health weekly lecture series. This series features veterinary students and undergraduates who traveled to Indonesia, Republic of Congo and Uganda to participated in the Engaged Cornell Program (VTMED 6743-6745 / NTRES 4150 – 4160) this summer and in preparatory coursework during the previous semester. The lectures will be every Tuesday at 4pm in LH2 during Fall semester 2017.