Category Archives: People

Conservation in action

First Indonesian to receive major fellowship will help save world’s rarest rhinoceroses

Deep in the Indonesian rainforest on the island of Java roam the last of earth’s most critically endangered large mammal species: the Javan rhinoceros. Once Asia’s most widespread rhinoceroses, these secretive forest-dwellers disappeared altogether from the continent’s mainland in October 2011, when the last individual was found dead in Vietnam with its horn chopped off by poachers. A single population of just 40 rhinoceroses survives in the western half of Java’s Ujung Kulon National Park, cramped into a corner of the island that has reached its carrying capacity.

The Indonesian government recently endorsed a daring plan to expand the range of their emblem species by establishing a second population with more room to grow. Yet a major concern remains. The plan involves moving some rhinoceroses from the isolated westernmost tip of Java to the eastern side of the park—an area surrounded by 19 agricultural villages whose inhabitants rely on water buffalo to work their rice paddies. No fences limit the wanderings of these loosely managed buffalo, which regularly pass into the park and could spread diseases that would quickly decimate the rhino’s population.

Cornell postdoc Dr. Kurnia Khairani has received a Fellowship Training Grant from the Morris Animal Foundation to address this problem. With the help of faculty and students at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Khairani is combining fieldwork in Indonesia with labwork and training at Cornell to improve the health and outlook of Javan rhinoceroses. It is the first time an Indonesian has received this prestigious award, and the first time a Cornell fellow will be trained in conservation medicine.

“Of the five rhinoceros species the Javan is the rarest, and Khairani’s work is critical to its future,” said Dr. Robin Radcliffe, director of the Cornell Conservation Medicine Program, one of the world’s foremost experts working in rhino conservation. Radcliffe oversees the project and is excited by its possibilities. “Khairani herself is a major investment for conservation efforts in this region: she will take her Cornell training back to Indonesia and become a decision-maker in her own country. Cornell is involved in real-world conservation, training people who will use what they learn here to tackle new problems in the race to preserve biodiversity.”

A postdoc in the laboratory of immunologist Dr. Julia Fellipe, Khairani will work under the joint mentorship of Fellipe and Radcliffe. Additional mentorship from epidemiologist Dr. Daryl Nydam and microbiologist Dr. Pat McDonough will round out Khairani’s skills.

Conducting a preliminary health survey of village buffalo, Khairani found several diseases of concern to rhinoceroses, including blood parasites, salmonellosis, and leptospirosis. With highly infectious diseases such as SARS, West Nile Virus, and Avian Influenza making worldwide headlines for crossing species barriers and ecosystems, it is critical to get this historic move of the rarest rhinoceros right the first time. Khairani’s ongoing survey will focus on hemorrhagic septicemia, a bacterial disease linked to four recorded die-offs of Javan rhinoceroses in the region. Khairani will determine the prevalence, distribution, and risk of contracting septicemia faced by the buffalo population; conduct questionnaire-based interviews with buffalo owners to determine management factors that might contribute to the regional epidemiology of the disease; and propose possible interventions.

The project also involves outreach, educating local public health officers and villagers on septicemia diagnosis and management through hands-on training. It has also opened doors for Cornell veterinary students to gain valuable hands-on international experience, and several have already conducted internships in Indonesia with Khairani through Cornell’s Conservation Medicine Program with funding by Expanding Horizons.


“Knowledge of the region’s diseases will help veterinary officers improve the health of buffalo, a resource crucial to the region’s economic vitality,” said Khairani. “Healthier buffalo will enhance the well-being of local villagers while reducing their impact on the park. Improving our understanding of animal health in the area will help reduce the risk of disease transmission from livestock to rhinoceroses. This is essential to establishing a second habitat and population of the rare Javan rhinoceros, a crown jewel of Indonesia’s amazing biodiversity.”

‘Scopes Magazine
February 2012

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Cornell China Dairy Institute teaches second crop of food-animal veterinarians from across China

For four weeks this past fall over two dozen dairy veterinarians converged on a private farm in Sanhe City, 37 miles east of Beijing. Here in China’s Heibei province, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine has partnered with Huaxia Dairy as well as local Chinese educational, government, and agricultural institutions to lead an international collaboration that is benefiting animal health and food safety in China and beyond.

Cornell China Dairy Institute has provided hands-on continuing education to approximately 70 Chinese veterinarians and veterinary technicians since its launch in September 2010. During the four-week program, participants from across China attend morning lectures at Sanhe City Vocational Education College followed by afternoon hands-on training at the Huaxia Dairy farm taught by Cornell veterinarians, veterinary students, and lab technicians.

Revenue from the program goes to support the College’s local dairy programs in New York State, including food-animal externships and the highly successful Summer Dairy Institute on which the China program is based.

“This is one of the few international veterinary education programs to offer live hands-on veterinary training as well as lecture-based instruction,” said Dr. Lorin Warnick, associate dean for veterinary education at Cornell. “As agriculture and associated economies become increasingly globalized, the US has a growing interest in international disease management, food safety, and public health. The goals of the program are to advance clinical skills of veterinary staff and improve cattle care and welfare on Chinese dairy farms.  Our faculty and students benefit from seeing the dairy industry firsthand in the world’s most populous country and one in which agricultural practices are changing rapidly.”

Tailored to meet the current needs of the veterinary community in China, content integrates topics such as how to care for sick or injured cows, calf health and heifer-raising, dairy reproduction, and techniques for ensuring high quality milk production.

“The China dairy program is part of the College’s global efforts and will help to transform animal health training in this region of the world,” said Dean Michael Kotlikoff. “The global community is connected in ways that are critical to the health and well-being of animals, people, and the environment everywhere. Cornell is positioned well to help influence the direction veterinary medicine takes, in the United States and around the world.”

The timing is right for this type of initiative, according to Charles Shao, CEO of Huaxia Dairy Farm, who explained that China’s dairy industry is presently in a growth phase.

“There is an intense desire to improve efficiency and production in China and to be able to support increased consumer demand for high quality milk and dairy products,” said Shao. “This collaboration has the potential to have a strong impact on the delivery of veterinary services to dairy farms in China.”

The program also supports goals outlined in the College’s strategic plan, including finding opportunities to influence the standards for veterinary practice followed around the world and providing teaching opportunities for Cornell veterinary students who may be interested in a career in academia.

Josh Boyden ’12 spent two weeks in China as a teaching assistant in October 2011.

“While faculty lectured in the mornings, employees would present us with cases and questions on the farm that demanded immediate attention,” said Boyden, who plans to go into large-animal practice in the Northeast after graduation. “The chance to interact with enthusiastic employees and promote good on-farm practices helped reinforce the importance of basics and offered great perspective and personal satisfaction.”

This year’s teaching team also included teaching assistant Karen James ’12; PhD student Dr. Soon Hon Cheong; alum Dr. Mark Thomas ’97; and Drs. Lorin Warnick, Charles Guard, Daryl Nydam, Robert Gilbert, Rodrigo Bicalho, Gary Bennett, and Michael Zurakowski.

“As the program grows, so do the College’s opportunities for international engagement,” said Warnick. “Most participants are dairy farm staff, but we have also begun to see graduate students attending from the Chinese Agriculture University in Beijing. Feedback has been very positive about the value of the course material.”

Support for the Cornell China Dairy Institute comes from student tuition, Huaxia Dairy, Pfizer Animal Health, the U.S. Grains Council, Alta Genetics, Land O’ Lakes, Sanhe City Vocational Education College, and the Sanhe City government.

‘Scopes Magazine
February 2012

Show highlights farm animal veterinary medicine

Peter Ostrum ’84 highlighted in new online show documenting work of farm animal veterinarians

Modern American livestock farmers face two emerging challenges: an increasing shortage of large-animal veterinarians, and dimming public understanding of what happens with food before it hits the fork. A new reality documentary series called Veterinarians on Call seeks to bridge these gaps by offering online viewers a candid look into the work of real livestock veterinarians, raising awareness of the care that goes into responsible livestock farming in the US.

Ostrum

As part of its efforts to support the veterinary and animal health industry, pharmaceutical company Pfizer funded the show’s production. Currently seven short ‘webisodes’ are available through the show’s Youtube Channel. Each episode follows one of several livestock veterinarians selected from various states and specialties who have volunteered to be filmed in their day-to-day work behind the scenes caring for food-production animals.

Cattle veterinarian Dr. Peter Ostrum ’84 features prominently in the series. Ostrum had an early start onstage playing the role of Charlie in the classic film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Preferring farms to fame, he left acting to earn his DVM from Cornell and now works at a mixed animal practice in upstate New York, which he co-owns with three other Cornell alumni.

Ostrum

“I got a call from a friend and fellow alum, Dr. Roger Saltman ’81, who works at Pfizer, and asked me if I’d be willing to participate,” said Ostrum. “The crew shadowed me throughout my normal workday and during emergency calls on dairy farms. When we discussed cases on camera I tried to explain what I’m doing for someone who’d never been on a farm.”

The show highlights how veterinary care plays into the key concepts of animal welfare and food safety, and reveals aspects of the job Ostrum says people wouldn’t normally think of.

Ostrum

“This job is not just treating sick cows. A lot of it is education; we spend a lot of time with people, training the farm workers who work with these animals every day and are usually the ones making decisions about treatment,” said Ostrum.
“Growing up, most of my peers were raised on farms. Now that more people live in cities and suburbs, fewer and fewer people understand what agriculture involves. I’m doing this to encourage aspiring veterinarians to consider large animal medicine, and also to try to help people reconnect with their food sources and shed some light on what’s going on in the farming sector.”

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/vetsoncall_Ostrum.cfm

Scholarship recognizes a perseverance to finish

Whitefield

When John W. Whitefield ’65 passed away in 2004, his colleagues and friends began raising funds for a scholarship that would keep his memory alive through generations of students who would receive the award. Through the work and creativity of some of his closest friends, including fellow alumni Dr. Ed Dalland ’68 and Dr. Joel Edwards ’64, the scholarship fund recently reached $100,000 with more than 350 donations from friends, family, colleagues, classmates, and clients.

“John was a good friend of mine and when he became ill I recruited a number of Cornell alumni to form a fundraising committee headed by Joel Edwards to establish the Whitefield Scholarship,” said Dalland. “We wanted to honor John while he was still alive, and he was very humbled. We mailed brochures to all practicing veterinarians in New York State letting them know of our efforts and asked veterinarians to give their clients the opportunity to contribute, especially those with pets on which John had performed surgery.

“The College’s alumni are devoted to the profession, the College, and their communities. Reaching our goal of $100,000 took approximately five years of effort, but we made it! John upheld that spirit of service, and in his honor we hope to support students that will do the same.”

The John W. Whitefield ’65 Memorial Scholarship will be given every year in perpetuity.

“Dr. Whitefield had to drop out of Cornell for one year because he ran out of money,” said Dalland. “Thankfully he was able to earn enough to complete his education. That is why the scholarship is to be awarded to a third-year student interested in pursuing a surgery internship or residency after graduation. What a terrible loss our profession would have suffered if he was unable to finish his education.”

The minimum for scholarship endowments at the University and College is $100,000, which provides annual support in perpetuity to qualifying students. Scholarships may be named for individuals, animals, or beloved faculty members and provide much-needed assistance. If you are interested in establishing a scholarship or know of individuals who might be, contact Amy Robinson in the Office of Alumni Affairs and Development at amy.robinson@cornell.edu.

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/whitefield.cfm

Christopher Byron ’98 joins AVMA editorial staff

ByronIn September 2011 Dr. Christopher R. Byron BS ’94, DVM ’98 was appointed assistant editor for the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) and the American Journal of Veterinary Research (AJVR), premier veterinary science journals published by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“Throughout my education at Cornell, and during my career as a surgeon, researcher, and veterinary educator, I have been interested in the science of veterinary medicine,” said Byron. “My new role as an assistant editor for the JAVMA and the AJVR fits well with this interest, and will be a natural complement to my prior experiences. The AVMA journals are important vehicles for scientific communications, and I am looking forward to serving the veterinary profession in this new capacity.”

Byron’s appointment is the latest in a string of varied professional experiences as a young equine surgeon. After earning both his undergraduate and veterinary degrees at Cornell University, Byron interned at the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY. He then completed an equine surgery residency and master’s degree program at Michigan State University, becoming a board-certified diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) in 2003, on whose Resident Credentials Committee he now serves.

As an Assistant Professor of Equine Surgery at the University of Illinois for six years, Byron taught veterinary students and residents, practiced clinical equine medicine, and headed a research team publishing papers about shock wave therapy and equine joint disease, including several in JAVMA and AJVR. He then joined the staff of the Ruffian Equine Medical Center, a private equine referral center in Elmont, NY, where he practiced equine surgery until March 2011.

Experience on the review board of the ACVS Veterinary Surgery journal prepared him for his full-time position in Schaumburg, IL. As assistant editor for AVMA’s publications, he will read and review article submissions and prepare them for release to JAVMA and AJVR’s subscribers, informing the veterinary community about the latest developments in veterinary science and clinical innovations.

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/byron.cfm

Student’s Fulbright project tackles potential epidemics in Trinidad and Tobago

pFrom the stray-strewn streets of Trinidad and Tobago to cow-covered pastures of rural New York dairy farms, Miguella Paula-Ann Mark-Carew has journeyed far in her quest to understand and combat disease epidemics across the world. Ever since she came to Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine through a veterinary summer program when she was 17, Mark-Carew wanted to return as a full-time student. While attending Dartmouth College, she spent two respective summers  conducting epidemiological research with Drs. Paul Bowser and Ted Clarke, and her positive experiences with Cornell faculty further sealed her aspiration. In 2007 she came to Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine as a doctoral student in the field of comparative biomedical sciences.

An aspiring epidemiologist, Mark-Carew studies Giardia parasite infections at the group and population levels to help understand and control potential epidemics. Giardia protozoa infect the small intestine of humans and other animals, causing stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, fever, nausea, and vomiting for two to four weeks. It commonly spreads via water contaminated by raw sewage or animal wastes. It can also spread between individuals, quickly putting populations at risk. Mark-Carew’s Giardia studies took her from the New York Watershed to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago to study the parasite’s prevalence and genetic makeup in dairy cattle and other mammals.

tr
After receiving a Fulbright grant funding an independent epidemiological project, Mark-Carew returned to the Caribbean state of Trinidad and Tobago to take on a growing health concern facing her family’s homeland. Her Fulbright project involves efforts to quantify, manage, and control the population of thousands of stray and free-roaming dogs in streets across the country. These dogs can carry Giardia and other diseases humans can catch, posing a serious potential public health risk, according to Mark-Carew. Beyond its medical and epidemiological significance, the project involves sociological surveys with political potential. Mark-Carew interviews residents and tourists about their perspectives on several concerns, including stray dog issues, testing to identify parasites, and the value of continuing her efforts to count the number of strays, all with the hope of inspiring policy changes to address the stray problem.

“I adopted three puppies when they were a month old from an active dog abandonment site,” Mark-Carew mentioned. “One is with me now in Ithaca, and the other two are scheduled to fly home with me after my visit this coming January. I literally brought my work home with me!”

 

Other Projects

Mark-Carew has also been involved with a project called “Caring Collars Loving Leashes” that was started by her mother, Marlene Mark, to promote the human-animal bond.

“We encourage owners to walk their dogs and obtain ID tags for free collars we give out so they can find their dogs if they get lost,” said Mark-Carew. “Over 150 collar and leash sets were split between the two branches of the Trinidad and Tobago Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA). We’d like for it to be an annual campaign during May, National Pet Month in the US.”

 

Inspired by a talk Mark-Carew gave at Cornell about her project, five Cornell students have visited Trinidad and Tobago to lend a hand. Sophie Tilitz, a rising freshman undergraduate interested in animal science, helped for six weeks from February to April 2011. In January 2011, second-year veterinary student Jasmine Bruno and third-year students Sarrah Kaye, Erin Lashnits, and Sarah Dumas spent two weeks on the islands with Mark-Carew collecting parasite samples from dogs, cattle, and water buffalo, processing samples in the lab, counting roaming dogs in the streets, and volunteering in an intensive marathon spaying and neutering event.

(Read more about their adventures.)

 

Future Plans

Mark-Carew hopes her career will allow her to assist the World Health Organization or similar entities to navigate an increasingly globalized world through which pathogens can spread quicker than ever before. She aims to understand how diseases differ across the world and species and hopes to work on projects concerning public health and animal health, particularly dealing with waterborne diseases in developing countries.

“I plan to return to Trinidad and Tobago during January 2012 break and Summer 2012,” said Mark-Carew. “This project means a lot to me and I plan to devote several years to seeing that something is done to control roaming dogs and promote responsible dog ownership in Trinidad and Tobago. I am looking for additional Cornell students to help with the roaming dog assessment project, and can be reached at mpm26@cornell.edu.”

 

For more on Mark-Carew’s Fulbright project, visit her blog: http://halfbrightfulbright.blogspot.com/

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/carew.cfm

Oct. 26, 2011

By Carly Hodes

maned wolf

The maned wolf, native to southeast South America, a near-threatened species, is one of the kinds of animals that students in the new Cornell-Smithsonian joint graduate program may address as they learn to become wildlife conservation scientists.

At a time when extinction threatens nearly one-quarter of all known vertebrate species, Cornell and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) have teamed up to offer a new shared doctoral program that will train the next generation of wildlife conservation scientists.

The Cornell-Smithsonian Joint Graduate Training Program (JGTP) began accepting applications this month to train students who will leverage basic research at Cornell with conservation initiatives pioneered by one of the nation’s pre-eminent wildlife research institutes. Using the facilities, resources and expertise at both institutions, students will learn to become independent investigators equipped to study and preserve some of the rarest species on the planet.

“We are in the midst of Earth’s sixth mass extinction, and this crisis is manmade,” said Alex Travis, director of the Cornell Center for Wildlife Conservation, who helped organize the program. “Although we must continue to take every effort to preserve natural ecosystems, numbers of more and more species have dropped so low that they require focused conservation efforts. We want to train top students in a setting in which they will be able to apply basic scientific approaches and cutting-edge techniques to the preservation of biodiversity. The knowledge these collaborations generate will then help solve real conservation problems around the world.”

Students in the five-year program benefit from the dual mentorship of a Cornell faculty member and an SCBI staff scientist. Collaborative research projects will utilize resources in Ithaca and SCBI campuses (in Front Royal, Va., and Washington, D.C.), allowing students the opportunity to work with advanced biomedical facilities at Cornell and endangered species populations such as cheetahs, clouded leopards, cranes and oryx at SCBI.

Jen Nagashima

Jennifer Nagashima, the first student admitted in the Cornell-Smithsonian Joint Graduate Training Program during last year's pilot phase, studies canine reproduction.

Jennifer Nagashima, the first JGTP student admitted during last year’s pilot phase, for example, works on canine reproduction. She studies aspects of female reproduction at SCBI, where she works on in-vitro egg maturation and fertility synchronization. In the Travis lab, she is learning new technologies to preserve genetic resources of male animals using spermatogonial stem cells. She’s also synthesizing both lines of training in studies on assisted reproduction techniques such as in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. She has rounded out her studies by delving into how hormones control the canine reproductive cycle with Ned Place, a reproductive endocrinologist at Cornell.

“These topics are highly complementary, and Jennifer’s study benefits tremendously from her work in these three labs,” said Travis. “Bringing these skills together could help manage captive populations of endangered canids such as the African wild hog and South America’s maned wolf. Interestingly, these same approaches could help dog breeders filter diseases out of domestic populations while also helping humans. There are over 400 human diseases having similarity to diseases in dogs. Identifying genetic causes of disease can then benefit everyone.”

Carly Hodes is a writer at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

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Original press release:

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine news

http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/doctoralprogram.cfm

 

Media hits:

Cornell Chronicle

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Oct11/SmithsonianVet.html

US Ag Net

http://www.usagnet.com/state_headlines/state_story.php?tble=NY2011&ID=994

News from Planet Earth

http://www.newsfromplanetearth.com/60749/cornell-smithsonian-to-train-new-generation-of-wildlife-scientists/

High Beam Research

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-270907727.html

Media Newswire

http://media-newswire.com/release_1161547.html