Heatwole becomes Emeritus

On Friday, February 12th, NCSU faculty & students gathered in the lobby of David Clark Labs to issue a very fond farewell to Dr. Harold Heatwole, who is retiring after 25 years at the university. Dr. Heatwole has been a beloved and respected member of the Zoology department since his arrival as department head in 1991. Serving in that capacity for 4 years, he then turned his focus toward teaching and his research on the physiology and natural history of reptilia. His reputation as a passionate and engaging coworker and professor is well deserved and his courses in General Biology and Ecology, Comparative Anatomy, and Herpetology were student favorites.  The herpetology course was particularly popular with DVM program students because Dr. Heatwole was willing to teaching it on weekends to facilitate their taking the class.

Before coming to North Carolina, Dr. Heatwole was a professor at the University of New England in Australia, where his research on the Great Barrier Reef positioned him as the world’s preeminent scholar on sea snakes.  In fact, he literally wrote the book on the subject, to considerable acclaim. He is one of the lucky few who have ever survived a sea snake envenomation, fitting considering that he spent more than twenty years studying venomous snakes and their ecology during his time in New South Wales.heatwole sea snake book

 

Dr. Heatwole’s expertise extends beyond herpetology, and includes microorganisms, protozoans, invertebrates, fish, birds, mammals, fungi, as well as vascular plants. He holds degrees in botany, zoology and geography.  A prolific writer, he has authored over three hundred peer-reviewed articles and a total of seven books.  He also has edited two multi-volume monograph series, and has served on the editorial board for numerous publications.  His professional service has included serving as president of the Australian Society of Herpetologists, the Great Barrier Reef Committee, and the Australian Coral Reef Society.

Australian Society of Herpetology 1967.  Harold Heatwole first row second from left.

Australian Society of Herpetology 1967. Harold Heatwole first row second from left.

His research has taken him to environmental extremes on all seven continents, and his passion for his work and pioneering attitude earned him a fellowship in the prestigious and exclusive Explorer’s Club. He has instilled a proper exploratory attitude in  his students, encouraging them to broaden their global horizons throughout his career. He has organized field courses at the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands, the Namib Desert, and even Antarctica.

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Hal Heatwole (front left) with students on a research project.

Dr. Heatwole’s transition ceremony was attended by many friends and colleagues who he entertained with his tireless, sprightly, and sporting sense of humor.  Wearing his trademark fanny pack, he assured his well-wishers that his work would continue both in North Carolina and in Australia.  Among other things, he hopes to continue his recent efforts  developing a videography portfolio for use in distance education to bring the global classroom to a broader audience.

NC Zoo Polar Bear Introduction Going Swimmingly

Valentine’s day has come and gone, but it seems love is still in the air over at the North Carolina Zoo. Nikita is a 9 year old male polar bear who was brought to North Carolina from the Kansas City zoo in early January, in the hopes of pairing him with Anana, the zoo’s 16 year old resident female. Sparks, reportedly, did not fly with his old mate in Kansas City, so the Association of Zoos and Aquariums decided it was time to let Nikita have another shot at romance while he is still in his prime.

Nikita playing

Nikita is known for his charisma & playful attitude

Nikita was accompanied on his journey from Kansas City by the EMC’s second-year zoological medicine resident, Dr. Sarah Cannizzo and one of the NC Zoo’s bear keepers. The transportation team handled all of the small glitches that go with flying a polar bear from Kansas City through Memphis to Ashboro, NC with ease and grace.  After spending about a month in routine biosecurity quarantine and then in nearby holding to get acclimated to his new surroundings, Nikita was introduced to Anana in a private meeting off of exhibit last Wednesday, February 10th. New introductions can be unpredictable, but the bears appear to have taken an immediate shine to each other. Weighing in at 600 and 1,200 pounds, respectively, Anana and Nikita make an odd couple, but they are getting along so well that they can now be seen on exhibit together happily exploring side-by-side.

Nikita and Anana walking

Nikita (left) and Anana (right) taking a stroll around the exhibit

Less than 20% of all AZA-accredited institutions house polar bears, for a total of only 60 bears on exhibit across the United States. The decline in their wild populations means that captive breeding efforts are more important than ever for their survival, and, as his mother was born in the wild, Nikita’s genes are particularly valuable for maintaining diversity among captive polar bear populations. Nikita’s sire and grandsire were both known for their virility, and the hope is that he will be able to continue his lineage’s impressive breeding record. It is still too early to tell, but with any luck the Valentine’s weekend romance budding between Nikita and Anana will result in a conservation victory for polar bears everywhere.

Nikita nuzzles Anana

An affectionate introduction

Loomis receives Order of Long Leafed Pine

Friday, January 29th, 2016 was a memorable day for many reasons.  Not the least of which, was that it marked the transition of Dr. Mike Loomis, long standing Chief Veterinarian for the North Carolina Zoo and Associate Professor (adjunct) in Zoological Medicine at NCSU to emeritus status with the North Carolina Zoological Society.  A celebration of his contributions to the NC Zoo, zoos and zoo animals around the world, and the discipline of zoological medicine organized by the veterinary health staff of the NC Zoo was fittingly attended by friends and colleagues from across the state (and further) who have enjoyed the opportunity to work with Mike Loomis throughout his career.

Many of the NC Zoo's veterinary health team, posing early during the celebration of Dr. Loomis' retirement as long standing Chief of Medicine for the Zoo

Many of the NC Zoo’s veterinary health team, posing early during the celebration of Dr. Loomis’ retirement as long standing Chief of Medicine for the Zoo

As the celebration, attended by 100’s of well wishers began, Mike released an owl that had been rehabilitated in the Schindler Rehabilitation Center, part of the NC Zoo’s veterinary complex.  The symbolism of Mike’s release to focus on his family and research and teaching interests was not lost on anyone.  Then, after some brief speeches attesting to his many contributions throughout his career, NC Representative Allen McNeil, on behalf of Governor McCrory, presented Mike with the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the highest honors that the state can bestow on a citizen.  The honor was a complete surprise to Mike and he was fighting back tears as he accepted the award and thanked the many friends and colleagues that were there to share the moment.

Representative Allen McNeill presents the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to Dr Mike Loomis on behalf of NC Governor McCrory

Representative Allen McNeill presents the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to Dr Mike Loomis on behalf of NC Governor McCrory

Stories at the event abounded as slides commemorating many key events in Mike’s very productive career, including slides of all of the zoological medicine residents he has helped mentor over the years in the highly respected residency program he helped to found.  Many EMC colleagues were in attendance to help Mike celebrate his transition.  Dr. John Cullen, Professor of Pathology first knew Mike when he was a veterinary student and Dr. Cullen was a resident at U.C. Davis.  Dr. Michael Stoskopf and Dr. Suzanne Kennedy-Stoskopf helped recruit Mike back to NC from the San Diego Zoo so that he could join them as the triumverate that established the first 3 year residency in zoological medicine.  Dr. Greg Lewbart, long a key part of the residency program was there with his trusty camera making sure the festivities were well recorded.  Dr. Craig Harms traveled from his post in Morehead City at CMAST to be there and congratulate Mike.  Now a Professor of aquatic health at NCSU, Dr. Harms was the second resident and the first with an aquatic emphasis to train with Drs. Loomis, Stoskopf and Kennedy-Stoskopf in the new residency program.  Dr. JB Minter, senior veterinarian at the NC Zoo and Dr. Emily Christiansen represented recent graduates of the residency program that are now helping lead it into the future.

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Dean Terry Curtin, Zoo Director Bob Frye, Zoo Veterinarian Mike Loomis, and Head of the Department of Companion Animal and Special Species Stephen Crane pose with a patient at the NC Zoo hospital

Few people are aware that Mike Loomis helped to establish the long partnership between NCSU’s newly founded, then School of Veterinary Medicine, and the rapidly growing new North Carolina Zoo.  Through the vision of Founding Dean Terry Curtin and founding Zoo Director Bob Frye, Mike developed cooperative program with the Department of Companion Animal and Special Species founding head, Dr. Stephen Crane that has lasted over 30 years.  Mike left the NC Zoo to explore the opportunities the San Diego Zoo could offer before Dr. Michael Stoskopf was recruited to fill the vacancy created when Dr. Crane took a position with Hills Foods.   As the new Department Head at re-named College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Stoskopf and his wife Dr. Suzanne Kennedy-Stoskopf, both diplomates of the American College of Zoological Medicine, looked for ways to create the critical mass of faculty needed to create a truly outstanding model residency for the discipline.  Luring Mike Loomis back to North Carolina was the lynch pin that set in motion one of the most respected zoological health programs in the world.

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Dr. Mike Loomis draws blood from an immobilized forest elephant in the field in Cameroon, Africa.

Everyone who knows Mike Loomis knows that he is just transitioning and not retiring.  Though certainly he will enjoy more time with his family including his much loved grand children, Mike intends to continue his important research on forest elephant movements in Cameroon and will be teaching veterinary students in selectives and other courses as part of his duties as Emeritus Chief Veterinarian for the NC Zoological Society.