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.

Wildlife Health Cornell takes new approach to natural world

This month, Cornell welcomed back thousands of alumni from many different locations, generations, interests, and affiliations to their home on The Hill. This was a very special weekend for Wildlife Health Cornell, because it was the first time that this initiative was publicly presented. The Reunion Weekend 2017 panel is just the beginning of the gradual unveiling of Wildlife Health Cornell. Stay tuned for more to come!

To read more about the Reunion Weekend panel, click here.

To read the first Wildlife Health Cornell newsletter, click here.

Wildlife Health Cornell represents an unprecedented approach to the health challenges wild animals face here in the northeast U.S. and around the world  – a comprehensive, science-based response by a team of the world’s top wildlife health experts.  With an emphasis on the types of interdisciplinary collaboration often required to foster real progress along the science to policy and action continuum, Wildlife Health Cornell has grown out of a palpable sense of genuine urgency regarding the fate of our planet’s wildlife, an increasing understanding of our own dependence on the planet’s natural systems, and a recognition that it will take a new generation of colleagues to halt and reverse the trends we face.

Cornell University today is very much about impact, about teamwork that capitalizes upon the vast array of disciplinary expertise available across the university, and about engagement. We hope you find this first edition of our e-newsletter useful and thought-provoking.

– Steve Osofsky, DVM
Jay Hyman Professor of Wildlife Health & Health Policy

Wildlife Health: new faculty to focus on Planetary Health at Cornell CVM

Image from Dr. Osofsky’s “Explaining Planetary Health” article, One-Health Cornell Blog.

The CUCVM student community would like to extend a warm welcome to a number of phenomenal new hires in the wildlife health realm. Recently, the CVM has brought-on seven faculty and staff, with the goal of growing Wildlife Health / One Health / Planetary Health programs at a critical time in the College’s strategic planning.  The group strives to develop and apply science-based, multidisciplinary approaches to conservation, including through a focus on Planetary Health. In short, Planetary Health is a field focused on improving our understanding and applying appropriate metrics regarding the public health impacts of anthropogenic environmental change, so as to be able to inform decision-making in the land-use planning, environmental conservation, and public health policy realms. Planetary Health also provides a lens for the new CVM-led Master of Public Health program, with its first class starting in September of 2017. There have already been numerous excellent discussions and many new initiatives are underway, not only within the CVM, but throughout the University. Hopefully, new collaborative efforts will arise and continue to foster future discussions and cross-disciplinary action!

We look forward to the incredible things that will come from these new appointments, not only for Wildlife Health and Environmental Conservation at our University, but for conservation initiatives worldwide.

Please join me in welcoming:

Dr. Steven A. Osofsky, Jay Hyman Professor of Wildlife Health & Health Policy

Dr. Martin Gilbert, Senior Research Associate in Wildlife Health

Ms. Helen Lee, Wildlife Health & Health Policy – planning and operations

Ms. Shirley Atkinson, Wildlife Health & Health Policy – Southern Africa, AHEAD Program

Dr. Montira Pongsiri, Planetary Health Alliance Science Policy Advisor

Dr. María Forzán, Senior Research Associate in Wildlife Pathology

Dr. Mani Lejeune, Director of Clinical Parasitology and Senior Extension Associate at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Zack Dvornicky-Raymond is a current second-year vet student interested in wildlife conservation and One Health, and hopes to pursue a career focused on reproduction and population management in endangered/threatened wild species.