April 09, 2018

The Zoo's Institute for Conservation Medicine  strives to solve global health challenges, which include climate change, pollinator decline, food safety, water availability, biodiversity loss and other planetary health issues. Students in veterinary medicine, human medicine, public health, and various master’s and PhD programs can take part in the Institute for Conservation Medicine’s (ICM) ongoing research programs, including projects in Kenya, the Galapagos and here in Missouri. These programs provide students the opportunity to get research, laboratory and field work exposure within #OneHealth. 

Learn about the links between wildlife conservation and human health from Saint Louis Zoo staff, and local university students at the annual One Health Fair 

MU MPH student studying abroad. MU MPH student studying abroad.

University of Missouri - Master of Public Health Program

At least 75% of all existing and emerging infectious diseases in people are known to be zoonotic. That is, they are spread though animal-human contact. Our health is impacted by the food we eat, the animals we encounter and the environments we share. One Health is an approach to public health that recognizes the important links between human health, animal health, and ecological health. The University of Missouri Master of Public Health program is becoming a leader in training students in One Health through its Veterinary Public Health degree offering. The Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine has been an important partner of the MPH program by providing students the opportunity to explore the relationships between animal habitats and human health. The MU MPH program will also launch a completely online version of its VPH emphasis area degree beginning in the Fall of 2018. More information is available here.

The Center for One Health at Fontbonne University

One Health research engages students, teaches critical thinking and investigates questions important to the local community. At Fontbonne University’s Center for One Health, developed in conjunction with the Saint Louis Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Medicine, undergraduate students engage in research spanning disciplines, exploring issues related to climate change, developmental stress, racism and health, and so much more. The Center for One Health offers a one health minor for undergraduate students, as well as a One Health Practitioner Certification open to anyone with an undergraduate degree interested in mastering skills and applying One Health concepts to his or her own area of expertise.  For more information visit www.fontbonne.edu/onehealth.

The Wildlife Epidemiology Lab within the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois

The Wildlife Epidemiology Lab is a collaborative research and diagnostic lab that focuses on emerging diseases in free-ranging and captive wildlife. Through our countless epidemiological projects we have developed assays that allow us to better characterize the threats to wildlife and are always constantly working to develop new diagnostic assays for current and emerging diseases in amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Our mission is to advance veterinary care for wildlife and companion animals, contribute to human health by characterizing wildlife disease transmission, and improve environmental conservation efforts that support good health and wellness of wildlife. Everything our mission stands for can be encompassed into our motto: “Saving the world, one box turtle at a time.”

While the focus of the lab began with a project to identify ranavirus in eastern box turtles, we now study wellness and diseases of many species including silvery salamanders, alligator snapping turtles, bearded dragons, eastern massasauga rattlesnakes, Humboldt penguins, ornate box turtles, timber rattlesnakes, and many more. The threatened or endangered status of many of these species encourages collaboration with veterinarians, zoos, and biologists across the country and world. Our team works in states including but not limited to Ohio, Tennessee, New Mexico, Texas, Maryland, and right back home in Illinois. We also have international research underway in Ontario, Canada and Punta San Juan, Peru.

The Largest Health Project in Box Turtles Ever

Since 2007, we have been performing physical examinations, blood testing, and disease investigations of box turtles in both Tennessee and Illinois. Thanks to John Rucker and his turtle dogs we have been able to locate and sample over 3000 turtles. We have been able to characterize the health or test for diseases in half of those, making this the largest health project in box turtles ever. We have identified new diseases, monitored for infection, organ damage, heavy metal contamination, plasma proteins, and mapped this information using GIS technology. Current project goals include further characterizing the health of these populations and investigating new diseases that threaten the conservation of the box turtle. Additionally, we are exploring the role of biodiversity in the presence of these diseases and how they impact behavior, transmission, and persistence.

 

Snake Fungal Disease

The Wildlife Epidemiology Laboratory is at the forefront of one of the largest emerging infectious diseases today - Snake Fungal Disease (SFD) caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola. It is causing widespread disease and high death rates in both wild and captive snakes across the country. While the infections caused by the fungus in individuals is concerning, the role that it plays in population declines is more alarming. After identifying the fungus as the cause of disease, our lab has developed a treatment that has saved both wild snakes and those of zoo collections. As little is known about this disease, our goal with SFD is to continue investigating the method of transmission, pathogenesis of the disease, and treatments that can save not just individuals, but populations.

We are excited to team-up with students in human medicine and experienced biologists, and share our knowledge with you about the importance of good wildlife health at the One Health Fair!

Find out about more about our collaborative projects supporting wildlife health.