Hands-on wildlife experience with CWHC Ontario/Nunavut

This year was the first that the Ontario Veterinary College offered 4th year students an opportunity to do a rotation with the CWHC. We (Kelly Guest and Melissa Pambianchi) were the fortunate two students who were selected for this two-week placement under the supervision of Dr. Claire Jardine and Dr. Doug Campbell. Both of us have a keen interest in wildlife health and disease surveillance, so we were excited to spend two weeks with very knowledgeable and skilled individuals in this field.

Throughout our two-week rotation, we had the chance to perform several post-mortem exams on various wildlife species that had been submitted to the CWHC. The purpose of these post-mortem exams was twofold: to try and determine the animals cause of death and to contribute to ongoing disease surveillance projects (i.e. taking samples and testing for Avian Influenza and West Nile Virus). This gave us the opportunity to become more familiar with common lesions you may see with certain diseases, and the chance to learn about which samples are required for the different surveillance programs.

We also had the chance to participate in field work during the rotation. More specifically, we accompanied graduate student Nadine Voigt in collecting fecal samples from geese at a park in Guelph as part of her master’s project looking at the prevalence of the bacteria Campylobacter in waterfowl. We were also fortunate enough to be able to go to Renfrew County with PhD student Katie Clow and participate in her project, which is aimed at understanding the habitat preferences of ticks as well as the distribution of Lyme disease in Ontario. We both enjoyed the experience of tick dragging through the forest and were happy to assist with some of the research efforts being put forth by the CWHC.

Additionally, we were able to sit down one-on-one with a few members of the CWHC team to discuss relevant issues as well as to gain insight into the different career paths that they took towards working with wildlife post-veterinary school. Specifically, we spoke with Dr. Jane Parmley regarding the concept of disease surveillance in wildlife, with a strong focus on avian influenza virus. There are many challenges associated with developing surveillance programs as well as determining what courses of action to take should specific diseases be detected. On our last day, we had a meeting with Dr. Nicole Nemeth and learned about epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus in white-tailed deer, which is of great concern recently due to the detection of the very closely related bluetongue virus in cattle in Ontario. She also reviewed important diagnostic techniques that wildlife pathologists and biologists rely on to detect diseases and organisms in animals that they receive.

Overall, this rotation was a fantastic way to experience the wide variety of ways that veterinarians can get involved with wildlife disease and surveillance and to become more familiar with the most common diseases that are seen in Ontario wildlife species. We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to the CWHC and everyone that made this rotation possible.


Submitted by Kelly Guest & Melissa Pambianchi, 4th year students, Ontario Veterinary College

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