Stoskopf Receives Major Award

Surrounded by swimming whale sharks and beluga whales, standing before a cheering audience of over 600 colleagues, former students and a few current ones, Dr. Michael Stoskopf, Director of the EMC, was awarded the most prestigeous award of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, the Lifetime Achievement Award.  The award was presented by Dr. Stoskopf’s long time friend and colleague, and the editor of the Journal of Wildlife Disease, Dr. Dan Mulcahy.  Dr. Mulcahy treated the audience to an extensive review of Dr. Stoskopf’s many achievements and contributions to the discipline of zoological medicine, including many little known facts and accomplishments.

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NCSU CVM Alumni, students and friends at the 2016 AAZV/EAZWV/IZW in Atlanta with Dr. Stoskopf and his award front and center.

In his acceptance speech Dr. Stoskopf pointed out the appropriateness of the venue for this award, recollecting his first time attending the AAZV annual meeting was in Atlanta 42 years ago, alluding to the importance of that number for all Douglas Adams and Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fans.  He also estimated the total attendance at that early meeting was about 42 people including the important local host staff and vendors who have long supported the AAZV through its evolution and one student member, himself.

He then talked about luck and serendipity, the subtle differences in the terms and how they clearly played a large role in his opportunity to make the contributions he has to the discipline.  He mentioned the luck of encountering Dr. Mort Silberman, long time leader of the AAZV, eventually serving as the first executive secretary of the organization and how Dr. Silberman made that first meeting a positive experience for a young veterinary student.  He also mentioned the luck of benefiting from the efforts of Dr. Stuart Porter who facilitated Dr. Stoskopf’s first position at the then Overton Park Zoo and Aquarium in Memphis and the serendipity of sitting with Dr. Mitch Bush at another AAZV meeting in Baltimore.  This all led to Dr. Stoskopf being at the proper place and time to meet his soul mate, future wife, long time colleague, and best friend, Dr. Suzanne Kennedy.

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Drs. S and K-S enjoying a bit of lunch in the arctic circle.

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Together exploring the heavens on Mona Kea in Hawaii.

Dr. Stoskopf proceeded to point out the irony that despite having spent a signifcant part of his career as a solo clinician, providing 24/7 coverage to his institutions, it was clear that there was not a single achievement of impact or importance that he could rightful call his own.  He emphasized that everything that he has accomplished has been in collaboration with others, giving examples of where he and his amazing wife, as well as brilliant, hardworking and dedicated colleagues and friends came together to make important things happen.  He stressed the importance of collaborations and working together for a common purpose, and expressed his delight at looking out at the audience and seeing his and Suzanne’s legacy of a  bright, passionate and skilled army of people dedicated to making the world a better place for wildlife of all kinds.

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Michael Stoskopf, DVM, PhD, DACZM working on a design class challenge.

The standing ovation was long and heartfelt.  It was particularly fortuitous that the presentation before a crowd of over 600 colleagues was at the first ever joint meeting of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, the European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians and the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research allowing many of Dr. Stoskopf’s international colleagues and friends to join in the celebration of Dr. Stoskopf’s award through out the evening of dancing and reminiscences.   Dr. Stoskopf joins the late Dr. Murray Fowler, estemed professor at UC. Davis and Dr. Marty Dinnes, internationally reknowned zoological cllinician and entrepreneur as the third recipient of this prestigeous award.

Cannedy 2016 Distinguished Tuskegee SVM Alumnus

Dr. Allen Cannedy joined a large cadre of EMC faculty this spring when he was awarded the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Service Award by his alma mater, Tuskegee University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.  The award, presented at the April Annual Awards Banquet held in Alabama, could not have gone to a more deserving individual.  Dr. Cannedy has long served as NCSU CVM’s director for diversity and has been the driving force behind developing a culture of respect and dignity and broad diversity at our College.   He is also a well established clinician providing primary care services for a wide variety of zoological species through his farm call practices.  His passion is camelids but his interests range from aquaculture to whatever animal needs his help.  His many clients and student mentees all would agree that he is an exceptional individual.


Dr. Allen Cannedy -2016 Distinguished Alumnus of Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine ready for a field call.

Dr. Cannedy has  contributed greatly to the many EMC students he has mentored over the years and continues to have a major impact on the lives of many alumni.  He is truly a distinguished faculty member and we are proud to have him as one of us in the EMC.

National Zoo and Aquarium Month

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Reilly the male lion at the NC Zoo with 2 cubs of his pride.

The United States celebrates National Zoo and Aquarium Month each June in honor of the important contributions of these institutions to our culture and the well being of wildlife.  The EMC celebrates the month emphasizing the role of veterinarians in the advancement of the abilities of our our zoos and aquariums to provide healthy and meaningful lives to the animals who are their responsibility.   Clinicians, researchers, and those working to improve the educational and conservation roles of zoos and aquariums are all contributing to the rapid evolution the many facilities dedicated to bringing the public close to the amazing animal life of our planet.

Over 175 million people visit US zoos and aquariums every year, including over 60 million children and student visitors.  Visiting zoos and aquariums is the largest recreational activity in the United States.  They are also a critical educational resource providing curricular materials for K-12 and higher education teachers, and supporting important experiences that can help inspire young minds to pursue careers in science and technology.

EMC alumni are helping provide for the well being of zoo and aquarium animals in states across the country, and we tip our hats to their dedicated efforts.  A recent blog featuring the annual physical examination of Reilly the 17 year old male lion at our NC Zoo provides great insight into the importance of our faculty and resident contributions to maintaining the health of the animals at the NC Zoo and is a very enjoyable read.

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First year resident Dr. Lori Westmoreland performs a careful examination of an anesthetized Reilly under the close supervision of EMC faculty member Dr. Jb Minter,(not shown) and the help of the NC Zoo medical staff.

EMC Director Honored

Honors in scientific careers are somewhat rare, compared to some other occupations, but when they come, they are the more special and sometime come in waves.  That is the situation this spring for EMC Director Dr. Michael Stoskopf who has been honored twice in rapid succession by very different organizations.

stewards of future award image 120First, in March, Dr. Stoskopf was named a Steward of the Future by The Research for Ocean Health and Community Sustainability Regional Exchange Group for “his lifelong dedication to the care and health of all animal species through research, teaching and mentoring, research on the environmental impacts on captive and free-ranging/swimming animals, establishment of aquatic and zoological programs for hundreds of veterinary, graduate and undergraduate students, and providing expertise and service to state,
national and international panels and commissions aiding in the protection of aquatic species in North Carolina and globally.”  That is quite a statement but it certainly describes the energetic founder and director of the EMC.

The Research for Ocean Health and Community Sustainability Regional Exchange Group is sponsored by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and NC East Alliance. The goal of the group is to engage scientists, business leaders and policy makers in open discussion on issues of importance in our coastal communities.

alumnus profile imageThen, in April, Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine featured Dr. Stoskopf in an Alumnus Profile.  The article, authored by CSU combined DVM-MPH student Claire Tucker,  features some amusing anecdotes and a bit of advice to veterinary students today.  It is an enjoyable read for all who know Dr. Stoskopf.



Conservation Health in the Galápagos

A new selective taught by Dr. Greg Lewbart introduced a group of excited DVM students to the concepts of conservation health in a very special environment.  The new selective, ” Galápagos Zoology and Medicine” was offered for the first time, taught during what is for most students called Spring Break.


The course immersed students in the famous archipelago’s unique ecology, natural history, and culture during five days of intensive study.  A combination of lecture and field experiences kept students alert and excited.  The very intensive course was based at the Galápagos Science Center on the island of San Cristóbal.

At the Galapagos Science CenterMorning lectures at the science center covered both ecological and clinical subjects, ranging from the biology and medicine of sea turtles, marine iguanas, and sea lions to the impact of plastics pollution in the Galápagos, marine mammal citizen science, and the intricacies of performing field research in a foreign country.  Guest lecturers included Juan Pablo Muñoz and Dani Alarcón-Ruales, both researchers at the Galápagos Science Center who provided valuable insights about the islands and their ecology.

View From Cerro Chico

Students in the course also toured the Charles Darwin Research Center, the conservation-oriented research partner of the Galápagos National Park Service, and visited the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic on Santa Cruz island, which provides free veterinary care for the island’s companion animals and wildlife alike.

Doug Shoots Iguana

Students particularly enjoyed the daily learning excursions, which required hiking, biking, snorkeling, and scuba diving to fully explore the lands and waters of the Galápagos islands.  On these excursions students had the opportunity to come into close contact with the diverse and unusual wildlife of the Galápagos. Particularly exciting were spottings of hammerhead and Galápagos sharks, manta rays, bottle-nose dolphins, Galápagos sea lions, marine iguanas, and animals familiar to North Carolinians, green sea turtles.

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Though it was a highly condensed whirlwind of exploration and learning, the lucky DVM program students in the course returned to NCSU with both new knowledge and extremely valuable experiences that will help inform their future career directions.

The class on the Giant Tortoise Sculpture

Fish Genome Has Many Uses

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Dustin Wcisel (left) and Dr. Jeff Yoder (left)

EMC faculty member Jeff Yoder and his graduate student Dustin Wcisel played important roles in the recently published genome sequencing of the spotted gar, an important addition adding to our knowledge of fish genomics.  The compete genome of the spotted gar was published online by Nature Genetics this Monday (March 7, 2016) in a paper that is the collaboration of 61 co-authors and greatly expands our understanding of important questions about evolution as well as providing a very useful new tool for studying the function of genes in other species, including humans.

Dr. Yoder, an established expert in innate immune function related gene expression in fishes spearheaded the team of comparative immunologists who analyzed the immune genes encoded by the gar genome. The group included NCSU Functional Genomics graduate student, Dustin Wcisel, and experts at the Department of Pediatrics, University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, St. Petersburg, Florida, US; the Department of Evolutionary Studies of Biosystems, SOKENDAI (Graduate University for Advanced Studies), Hayama, Japan, and the Molecular Genetics Program, Benaroya Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, USA.


Spotted Gar (photo by SONY DSC)

Gar are special fish in part because they are from a more ancient lineage that did not duplicate their genomes as has occurred in the evolution of most other fish species. Having the sequenced genome of the gar as a reference makes research comparisons to other fish genomes and even humans easier.  The lack of accumulated additional copies of genes in the gar genome also makes it potentially more reflective of an essential collection of genes.

The spotted gar is a powerful new model system for studying vertebrate genomics, evolution, and development because of its important phylogenetic position as a ray-finned fish outgroup as well as its accessibility for developmental studies.  Gars have enamel bearing teeth and ganoid scales making them a useful model for understanding vertebrate mineralization.  They also may have the ability to see UV light.  In the realm of immune function, Dr. Yoder’s team has found that for one class of immune receptors that recognize pathogens, some of the gar receptors are more similar to tetrapod (human) receptors while others are more similar to teleost receptors.

Cold Stun Sea Turtles Return To Gulf Stream

Another group of 39 lucky sea turtles being cared for by the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center for cold stun sequelae were successfully released into the Gulf Stream on February 23, 2016.   The large influx of cold stun turtles starting in early January, has pushed the state of the art sea turtle rehabilitation facility to its limits, but  the around-the-clock care by a dedicated staff, careful attention to veterinary care is paying off.  The release of the most recent 39 turtles frees up much needed space for the approximately 90 turtles continuing to occupy the available rehabilitation tanks.

Beasley Addresses Boat     Jean Beasley addresses volunteers aboard the "Vonda Kay" as the ship departs for the Gulf Stream. Photo courtesy Ken Blevins/StarNews Media

Beasley Addresses Boat
Jean Beasley addresses volunteers aboard the “Vonda Kay” as the ship departs for the Gulf Stream. Photo courtesy Ken Blevins/StarNews Media

The 39 turtles released successfully passed their exit physical examinations conducted by Dr. Craig Harms.  Declared fit and ready for release, they were transferred in the early dawn hours by 20 volunteers onto a local charter boat, the “Vonda Kay” which immediately headed out to find the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. The turtles were each individually released to cheers and applause, as they swam off into warmer waters, ready to continue their life journeys in the sea.

     Releasing a young sea turtle over the side of the "Vonda Kay." Photo courtesy Ken Blevins/StarNews Media

Releasing a young sea turtle over the side of the “Vonda Kay.” Photo courtesy Ken Blevins/StarNews Media

The journey is far from over for the hardworking folks at the Rescue & Rehabilitation Center. Many turtles affected by the cold or other events continue to need expert care and rehabilitation before they can return to sea.  But every successful release is inspirational for the sea turtle rehabilitation teams of North Carolina.


Jean Beasley (left) is interviewed by a TV reporter. Darth Vader, a young green sea turtle who was admitted this year for cold stun relaxes on a towel. Photo courtesy of Town of Surf City.

Great House Officers Match with EMC

Early February is always a tense time for future clinicians as they anxiously await the national match results.  The nation’s top veterinary candidates and programs wait to hear how well they have fared in the very competitive matching process. It is just as exciting a time for the institutions and faculty who are on the other side of the match.  Massive faculty effort goes into evaluating the many fine applicants and choosing which will be the best for our programs training leaders in zoological health.  The EMC has always enjoyed excellent results from the match and this  year was no exception.  What better way to welcome the temptation of warmer weather than to extend our warmest welcome to our newest veterinary residents & intern.  This year is a particularly important year because it sees 3 rather than 2 new house officers joining us.

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Dr. Michelle Whitehead holds an owl patient named Voldemort.

Dr. Michelle Whitehead, a 2014 DVM graduate from Western College of Veterinary Medicine will joining us as the first ever Zoological Companion Animal resident in the newly established position to focus on privately owned zoological species.  She will be coming to us after completing her internship in zoological medicine & surgery at Texas A&M.  Dr. Whitehead was heavily involved in the Wild and Exotic Animal Medicine Society (WEAMS) during her time at Western and served as president of that organization which is similar to our WAAZM.  She has also studied at the Vancouver Aquarium and at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as well as at the the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro. Her passion for education and teaching will surely shine during the small exotics anatomy and physiology wet lab she will be instructing at Texas A&M this spring, and we are excited to have her join us as a resident at NC State.

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Dr. Whitehead with a bear cub treated at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

From a cursory glance it might seem that this year was a sweep for Texas A&M University, and in a sense it was as joining the Exotic Animal Medicine Service as a new intern this July will be Dr. Jane Christman, who will be joining us fresh from a small animal rotating clinical internship at Texas A&M University.  Dr. Christman, however, is a dedicated Spartan, having earned her DVM in 2015 from Michigan State University.  She is excited to be joining the EAMS team and has long held a career in zoological medicine as her long-term goal.



Dr. Jane Christman will be starting her career in zoological health as the new EAMS intern next year.

Last, but certainly not least, returning to the NCSU fold this year as the new Zoological Medicine first year Resident will be Dr. Kate Archibald, NCSU DVM class of 2014.  After graduating from NC State, Dr. Archibald completed a small animal rotating internship at VCA West Los Angeles before joining the team at the Omaha Zoo as a zoological medicine intern.  Dr. Archibald is well known to us and is an outstanding clinician and an active researcher having published with many of the EMC faculty and others on a wide array of species including bullfrogs, blue crabs, waxy monkey frogs, and tarantulas.

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Dr. Kate Archibald hugs a Zoo Camp volunteer.

During her time at NCSU, Dr. Archibald was also an active participant in the creation of ZTAU masterplan for the College of Veterinary Medicine’s emerging Zoological Teaching Animal Unit. She was among the first pioneering veterinary students that collaborated with graduate students from the College of Design to create a plan to bringing NC State’s emphasis on experiential education to the teaching of zoological medicine.  We are excited to have her back and not just because of all of the work that is available to be done on further implementing the ZTAU master plans that started with the completion of the first ZTAU installment, Wolf Prowl.

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Dr. Kate Archibald (second from left) works with fellow DVM and Design graduate students on the ZTAU master plan development.


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.

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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