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.

 

EMC Faculty Respond to Record Sea Turtle Cold Stun Numbers

Cold Stun Syndrome, a debilitating state of hypothermia seen in sea turtles along the Atlantic coast of North America is a concern every winter.  This winter, however, an unseasonably warm December, followed by precipitous drops in temperature after the New Year, caught record numbers of young green sea turtles inshore where they are very vulnerable to Cold Stun Syndrome.  As a result, the beaches and shorelines of North Carolina were littered with unfortunate, juvenile green, loggerhead and a few Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles who were taking advantage of the food in the NC sounds when the cold snap hit, rather than having migrated out to the warmer waters of the Sargassum  as they normally would have done.

Nearly 1000 animals were found between January 5th and 7th alone, with a second wave bringing numbers up to approximately 1600 affected animals. Incapacitated by the cold, these turtles would suffer a slow, wintry demise without the concentrated rescue efforts of stranding responses up and down the coast.

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Recording green sea turtle cold stuns near Cape Lookout, January 20th

 

For such large numbers of affected animals, triage is an unfortunate feature of the rescue effort and EMC faculty and residents working out of CMAST and the STAR facility on Roanoke Island, are heavily involved in examining and triaging the large numbers of turtles being recovered by NC sea turtle stranding response participants.  Dr. Craig Harms and Dr. Emily Christiansen always bear the major brunt of these long days and nights but Dr. Greg Lewbart, Suzanne Kennedy-Stoskopf and Michael Stoskopf also pitched in and helped as clinicians in the triage effort.  Dr. Kim Thompson, third year resident was the house officer on duty helping assess the many turtles arriving in truck loads from the beaches.

The least affected turtles based on quick triage evaluation received fluids and were warmed slowly for a quick re-release into warmer waters after being marked for identification and receiving an implanted chip to confirm their identity if found again later.  To date over 500 turtles in this category have made their way safely into the gulfstream or the kinder climates off the coast of Florida thanks to the participation of sea turtle rescue programs in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, as well as the United States Coast Guard, who facilitated the most recent group of releases just this Friday, January 30th.

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Green sea turtles preparing for release

Some animals require more extensive treatment to recover.  After initial triage, veterinary care at rehabiliitation centers and other facilities are nursing these turtles through their challenges which can include pneumonia, severe skin lesions, problems in joints, and general poor condition.  The most serious cases are being managed at the major sea turtle rehabilitation centers, the STAR Center at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island, and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City. Ordinarily the the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center may see 30-40 cold stun cases throughout the winter, but they are currently housing approximately 90 turtles, nearly all of which are recovering from cold stun.

Veterinary nursing teams at the aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores and Fort Fisher the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, the Greensboro Science Center, and SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord are all housing rescued turtles providing them with the necessary care to re-establish their health for future re-release into the sea next spring when water temperatures allow.

Monitoring vital signs on a young loggerhead sea turtle suffering from cold stun

Managing the unprecedented volume of cases this year has required unprecedented levels of communication and coordination, but the round-the-clock dedication of organizations statewide, as well as many volunteers, means that hundreds of turtles now have a second chance at survival.

Red Wolves May Help Understanding of Human Eye Disease

The red wolf reintroduction has generated knowledge that has facilitated many other predator conservation efforts through the publication of innovative techniques and basic science in the scientific literature.  Now it appears that the careful work with the red wolf may also help us better understand an array of eye diseases that may affect as many as 1.8 million people in the United States.

Dr. Freya Mowat, a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist and researcher who has recently joined the NCSU CVM faculty and the EMC is an expert on inherited diseases of the canid retina.  Dr. Brian Gilger, leader of the NCSU CVM ophthalmology service recognized immediately that Dr. Mowat was the obvious person for Dr. Suzanne Kennedy-Stoskopf to contact when students in the ZTAU Wild Carnivore Team reported that one of the wolves was showing signs of an eye problem.

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Dr. Mowat (left) examines the eyes of a red wolf restrained by Dr. Kennedy-Stoskopf (right)

A former large animal practitioner in England before taking on the challenge of PhD and residency training to study eye disease, Dr. Mowat did not hesitate joining in on the examination of the wolf on a cold and rainy day.  Her careful examination revealed the male wolf appeared to have a degenerative retinal condition that was first reported in the literature by former NCSU graduate student Dr. Anne Ballman (ne- Acton) in a review of red wolf pathology findings she published while a student at the University of Tennessee.   The condition has been mentioned briefly in 2 early red wolf recovery documents but work on the pathogenesis and genetic basis of the disease has been limited.  This is in part because the disease affects wolves later in their lives and has not been identified as affecting their productivity or success in the wild during their main reproductive years.

Dr. Mowat immediately recognized the potential value of better understandinig the red wolf condition as it relates to both diseases found in domestic dogs and those of humans.  She was quite eager to see additional wolves.  Which is how she found herself in sub-zero weather looking at the eyes of a dozen wolves being held at Alligator River just before the start of the semester.

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Wolf Biologist Becky Harrison (left) restrains a young red wolf while Dr. Kennedy-Stoskopf instructs Wild Carnivore Team students Haley Gunter (second from right) and Paige Harrelson (right) in the finer points of wolf phlebotomy.

Dr. Kennedy-Stoskopf and a team of 6 of the top students in the Wild Carnivore team were headed to Sandy Ridge in North Eastern North Carolina to conduct the annual physical examinations of the wolves in captivity both there and in Columbia, NC.  Dr. Mowat packed a portable ophthalmological examination kit that could work without electrical power and joined the team on two cold and blustery days of physical examinations.  It was a great opportunity for the students to work with some of the most experienced wolf biologists in the world and learn their techniques for catching and restraining the animals.  The students, Katie Cassady, Haley Gunter, Paige Harrelson, Hannah Gardner Marvin and Doug Margarucci also learned a few things about working animals in sub-zero temperatures.

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Expert wolf biologists Mike Morse and Ryan Nordsven show veterinary student Douglas Margarucci (center back) the finer points of hand restraint of an awake red wolf.  Hank the red wolf’s (center front) eyes have already been dilated for Dr. Mowatt’s examination.

Unbeknowst to the NCSU team, 2 of the wolves to be examined were the parents of the wolf Dr. Mowat had looked at earlier in December.  He was one of the pups in the famous pair’s only litter.  Known as Betty and Hank, the rather advanced age parents have lived near the visitor center in Columbia for many years and are well known to local residents and featured in many red wolf photos.  As it turned out, Hank, the father of the NCSU wolf has been having visual challenges of late and Dr. Mowat was able to document his retinal dysplasia.  Blood samples from all 12 wolves examined along with samples from the 7 wolves managed by the Wild Carnivore Team will put Dr. Mowat on an excellent track to better understand the genetics and the pathogenesis of the red wolf condition as a step towards evaluating the usefulness of an endangered species model of an important group of human diseases of the eye.

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Veterinary students Liz Hyde (left) and Katie Cassady (right) conduct a physical examination on an anesthetized young red wolf at Sandy Ridge.

 

Marine Mammal Course

Only at NCSU can DVM students spend the week before their winter holiday break studying the health management of marine mammals.  This year the added bonus was warm and sunny December weather. Students from the College of Veterinary medicine in the DVM program gather at the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology in Decembers of alternate years, for a week-long intensive course in marine mammal medicine.

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The Marine Mammal Selective takes places at CMAST, the unique coastal resource of NCSU

Taught by Professor Craig Harms, Director of EMC Marine Health Programs and Professor Michael Stoskopf, Director of the EMC, the course immerses students in the material they need to understand and respond to marine mammal health needs in the wild and in captivity.  It is not a “gut” course by any means despite the beach ambiance.  There are at least 8 hours of contact teaching daily for 5 solid days, examining everything from anatomy to zoonotic diseases.  Guest lecturers from the NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the NC Maritime Museum, and Duke Marine Lab add to the academic rigor and provide important insights into anatomic adaptations, stranding response and history and acoustical challenges for marine mammals in today’s oceans.

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Students work on histopathology diagnosis of real stranding cases.

A favorite for many students are the cetacean necropsies, which allow veterinary students a chance to explore the anatomy and adaptations of several cetaceans in a close, hands-on setting, following the same processes that would be used in the field.  Though the insights of gross pathology examination of dolphins that have stranded on NC beaches solidify the classroom discussions of anatomy and physiology, students also take cases to completion in the histopathology laboratories.  There they identify tissues and read out the lesions for their own assigned stranding cases taken from the CMAST CVM histopathology archives.

Mock stranding exercises on the beach behind CMAST provide students with the opportunity to integrate all of the theory provided in their classroom sessions as they respond to scenarios developed and directed by the faculty and staff to simulate real stranding events. Students develop insight taking the roles of first response and veterinary team members as well as those of news reporters, and the public during the stranding events.

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A student stranding team discusses the next move to care for their stranded “killer whale”.

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Students David Neely playing the role of crowd interface specialist, answers questions posed by Ashley Kirby in the role of an animal rights inclined member of the public.

 

Movie Night, a selective favorite this year, was held at the Maritime Museum.   Good popcorn and pizza fueled discussion of the philosophical and technical issues in “A Dolphin’s Tale”.  Ultimately, the week of hard work gave students interested in a career in aquatic animal medicine or simply exploring outside the typical veterinary curriculum, a thorough foundation from which to pursue further the study and care of marine mammals, both captive and wild.

 

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DVM student John Griffioen responds to a mock stranded pilot whale.

 

Three Hook Removal Success

An observant fisherman, dedicated sea turtle rehabilitators, and a highly skilled team of veterinarians combined to make it possible for a stranded loggerhead sea turtle near the Surf City fishing pier to have a second chance at life.

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Radiography showing 3 hooks and leader in the throat and thoracic area of the stranded loggerhead sea turtle.

Saturday morning, October 24th, a recreational fisherman found a stranded loggerhead sea turtle off of the Surf City fishing pier.  He knew the turtle needed the help of experts and was familiar with the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center (KBSTRRC) on Topsail Island.  The volunteers at the nationally recognized sea turtle rescue facillity admitted the injured turtle for evaluation, identified fishing leader and determined the turtle’s need for more advanced diagnositics.  The fortunate sea turtle was transferred to NCSU’s Center for Marine Sciences and Technology for x-rays and possible removal of a lodged fish hook. The radiographs revealed not just one, but three large fishhooks lodged in the turtle’s esophagus.

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Drs. Kim Thompson (left) and Brianne Phillips (right) pose proudly with their loggerhead sea turtle patient.

Dr. Craig Harms, Director of the Environmental Medicine Consortium’s Marine Health Programs, along with third year residents Dr. Brienne Phillips, and Dr. Kim Thompson,  prepared the loggerhead for surgery. After the turtle was anesthetized, Dr. Thompson carefully performed her first hook-removal under the experienced supervision of Dr. Harms, and successfully dislodged the first hook from the turtle’s oral cavity. The remaining two hooks were located so deep in the turtle that the could only be removed safely through a surgical approach. Dr. Phillips  was able to successfully find and extract both of the remaining two hooks through the same small incision in the esophagus.  A veteran of non-surgical hook removal, Dr. Phillips was excited to perform her first removals through a surgical esophagostomy.

The turtle is doing extremely well after several weeks of post surgical rest and followup treatment at the Sea Turtle Rescue.  It is expected to make a full recovery. Thanks to the coordination of Environmental Medicine Consortium partners, including the veterinarians of the Marine Health Program at NCSU’s CMAST, and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue, this lucky loggerhead has a second chance at a healthy life in the wild.

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Close up of the still anesthetized patient and the 3 hooks removed by NCSU surgeons.

 

Barkalow Lecture Wednesday

Peter Kareiva, Director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA will present to Barkalow Lecture this coming Wednesday, November 4, 2015 at 4:45 in 124 Dabney Hall.  The title of his talk will be Re-imagining conservation for a prosperous and sustainable planet in 2050.

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Peter Kareiva, UCLA

Peter Kareiva is the Director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA.  Prior to coming to UCLA he served 20 years as professor of zoology at University of Washington.  Before his academic career, he was Chief Scientist at The Nature Conservancy then, Director of the Division of Conservation Biology at NOAA’s fisheries lab in Seattle.  Peter began his career as a mathematical biologist who also did fieldwork focused on ecological theory.  He developed an interest in agriculture, biotechnology, risk assessment, and conservation and now mixes policy and social science with natural science.

The Frederick and Joan Barkalow Distinguished Conservationist Lecture was created to honor Dr. Fred Barkalow’s 37 years of dedicated public service to conservation of natural resources in NC and the nation. To recognize his career achievements, Fred was presented with US Department of Interior Public Service Award, and was the first inductee into the NC Conservation Hall Of Fame. As a founder of NCSU’s wildlife program, zoology department head, dedicated teacher, in field and classroom, Fred enthusiastically promoted wildlife conservation and mentored generations of students at State. Fred & Joan Barkalow’s living legacy to students & the conservation community is this lecture series, intended to attract the world’s leading scientists/wildlife biologists & conservationists to the NC State Campus in order provide students with informed exposure to science and policy challenges.

New Undergrad Semester at Coast

The Center for Marine Sciences and Technology is opening its doors this Spring to 25 undergraduate students for NC State University’s first-ever Semester at CMAST. Inspired by the success of summer sessions and fellowships, CMAST Director, Dr. David Eggleston and Dr. William Winner from the Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources have created a program that will let NCSU undergraduates take fuller advantage of the resources that CMAST has to offer.  EMC faculty will be heavily involved in the teaching of the new semester at CMAST.

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The main CMAST Building, home to NCSU’s Coastal initiatives.

Undergraduates of all majors who are drawn to marine and environmental science will be able to explore those interests in an immersive, experiential learning space in the heart of the “coastal research triangle,”  in Carteret County.  They will at the same time be completing a full 15 credit academic semester applied towards their NC State degree.  Interested undergraduates are encouraged to apply now, as the October 30th deadline is fast-approaching!   For more information about the Semester at CMAST, read the article in The Technician or visit the program’s page on the CMAST website.

Congratulations to New ACZM Diplomates

Congratulations to Dr. J.B. Minter,  Senior Veterinarian at the NC Zoo and Dr. Emily Christiansen, Veterinarian for the NC Aquariums for successfully completing the grueling two days of examinations which are the final step in becoming certified as a diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine.  Established in 1983, the American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM) is an international specialty organization recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) for certification of veterinarians with special expertise in zoological medicine.  The American College of Zoological Medicine is dedicated to excellence in furthering the health and well being of captive and free-ranging wild animals.

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Dr. J.B. Minter, newly certified ACZM diplomate, conducts a health exam of an anesthetized lioness.

The Environmental Medicine Consortium has one of the longest standing training programs for young veterinarians pursuing careers in zoological medicine and an enviable record in successful completion of the examinations by its alumni.   Dr. Minter received his DVM from NCSU CVM and after an internship returned to NCSU and the EMC for his residency trainiing in general zoo medicine.

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ACZM Diplomate, Dr. Emily Christiansen takes a blood sample form a sea turtle.

Dr. Christiansen received her DVM from Tufts University and after internship training entered the EMC’s zoological medicine residency focused on aquatic health.  The success of Drs. Minter and Christiansen in becoming the latests additions to the distinquished group of veterinarians that makes up the American College of Zoological Medicine greatly strengthens the Environmental Medicine Consortium’s residency training programs in addition to the programs at their home institutions, the NC Zoo and the NC Aquariums.

Two additional former EMC residents made important strides in their quest to become diplomates of the ACZM.   Dr. Tres Clarke,  Associate Veterinarian at the Audubon Nature Institute, and former aquatics focused resident at NCSU successfully competed the first day of examinations and will have the opportunity to tackle the formidable second day examination next fall.   Dr. Jenessa Gjeltema, the most recent resident to complete her program in general zoo medicine at NCSU, and a clinical faculty member at UC. Davis, successfully completed 3 of the 5 first day examinations and will be looking to complete day one and day two examinations next fall as well.

Everyone in the EMC recognizes the immense challenge posed by the ACZM board examinations and are proud of the efforts of everyone from the NCSU program taking board examinations this year.

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Dr. Tres Clarke examines a sea turtle.

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Dr. Jenessa Gjeltema examines a lobster.

 

Jim Wright Visiting Scholar to Speak

The week of October 12 thru 16th the NCSU CVM will be hosting the The Jim Wright Visiting Scholar.  Everyone in the EMC community is encouraged to attend the formal lectures, and visit or meet with Dr. William Murray, this year’s Jim Wright Visiting Scholar during the week of activities.

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Dr. Bill Murray, 2015 Jim Wright Visiting Scholar

Dr. Murray, a veterinarian, researcher and educator is a professor at San Jose State University, where he teaches subjects ranging from microbiology and virology to parasitology at both the graduate and undergraduate level.  His major interest in infectious disease processes was developed in his PhD studies at Purdue University.  He has a particular interest in wildlife disease at the human/wildlife interface, and he has published widely in this arena.  He is particularly well known for his work on and publications evaluating the zoonotic potential of Baylisascaris procyonis, the raccoon roundworm.  However, his published work has a broad base, including well received papers on such organisms of wildlife interest as Bartonella, E. Coli, and Moellerella.  Much of his work has been in the context of mesocarnivores living in proximity to human habitats and populations. His passion and his propensity for problem-solving make him a well-storied, engaging, and informative presenter, and we are honored to have him joining us next week.

Dr. Murray will be presenting on his work with a western lowland gorilla with antibiotic-resistant pneumonia on Tuesday, October 13th at 12:15 PM in the South Theater at the College of Veterinary Medicine, and will give a lecture on Wildlife and Brucella in CBS 817 at 4:15 PM on Thursday, October 15th, also in South Theater. He will be available for meetings and discussions during his visit; any interested faculty who would like to talk with Dr. Murray about his research, can contact Dr. Michael Stoskopf  to make arrangements.

 

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Dr. Jim Wright

The Jim Wright Visiting Scholar program is a tribute to Dr. James F. Wright, who was an esteemed member of the faculty at NCSU’s CVM.  Dr. Wright came to NCSU and joined the CVM faculty after a very productive and interesting career that included many  contributions to the discipline of zoological medicine.  Dr. Wright was was the first full-time veterinarian at the National Zoo in the 1950s and helped refine protocols for projectile tranquilization and immobilization of wildlife both in the USA and in Africa.   He conducted important investigations into the health effects of radiation, and worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to study the effects of environmental stress on animals before joining the faculty at the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine in the early 1980s  in what was then the Department of Microbiology, Parasitology, and Pathology.  Over 10 years, from 1984 to 2004, working with his good friend, the former head of pathology at UNC Chapel Hill, Dr. Fred Dahldorf, Dr. Wright pioneered the in-house pathology services at the Zoological Park, and in so doing planted the earliest seeds for what has become a long and productive partnership between the NC Zoo and the College of Veterinary Medicine. He is remembered not only for his work, but for his warmth and his dedication, and is an honorary diplomate of the ACZM.

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Dr. Jim Wright, carefully collects tissue samples at the NC Zoo.

 

 

20 Years of Turtle Rescue Team

Treating injured turtles has a long history at the NCSU CVM, going back to the earliest days of the college.  Dr. John Cullen, professor of pathology was likely the earliest proponent of the practice, seeing injured turtles clinicially when members of the public would find them and bring them to the newly built veterinary college.  When Dr. Michael Stoskopf joined the faculty in 1989, bringing expertise in shell repair, he and Dr. Cullen began to work collaboratively on the cases, and developed the now widely accepted open management of shell wounds at Dr. Cullen’s suggestion. 

NCSU bulletin with Dr. Lewbart

When Dr. Greg Lewbart came to the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1993, and as the newest clinician at the college with an interest in poikiolotherms, he quickly joined in  treating the ten or so sick and injured wild turtles people would bring to the college each year.  By 1994 the turtle caseload had doubled, just by word of mouth letting people know there was a place where injured turtles could be treated.  In 1995 the caseload continued to increase and Dr. Lewbart became the “go to” person as administrative and research duties limited the availability of Dr. Cullen and Dr. Stoskopf.  It was also clear that with the rising caseload there was an opportunity for a more coordinated student involvement with the cases, to help develop not only their clinical and case management skills.  With the help of a donation from local wildlife rehabilitator Linda Henis, North Carolina State University’s Turtle Rescue Team was born in 1996.

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A few members of the Turtle Team pose with Dr. Lewbart and some patients.

Now, entering its 20th year, Turtle Rescue Team is a thriving and vital part of the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Supported by their faculty mentors and the technical staff of the college, the day to day operations of the Turtle Team, as it is more commonly referred to, are run entirely by students. DVM program students are the heart of the Turtle Team, and serve as the presidents, shift captains and other key positions, managing the medical and surgical cases from admission to discharge. 

The involved veterinary students build case management skills, and the officers gain experience in volunteer coordination and clinic management. A select few graduate, and undergraduate students also contribute to turtle team success, gaining valuable opportunities for hands-on reptile  experience.  Many staff and faculty also help by fostering turtles needing long term care before release.

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Box turtles lined up for daily treatments.

In 2015, the Turtle Rescue Team expects to see over 300 cases. The steady stream of patients has provided opportunities for publication of case studies, development of novel treatment protocols for challenging conditions, and other research into the best approaches for managing turtle trauma or understanding turtle physiology.

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Radiographs of a female turtle with many eggs.

The longevity of the program has generated a large volume of data that has and will continue to prove valuable to further understanding the health & ecology of North Carolina’s wild turtle populations. The Turtle Team’s community outreach and education efforts are equally valuable.  By including each turtle’s rescuer in the rehabilitation and release process, the Turtle Team has helped to educate the triangle public about the value and needs of our wild turtles.

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A snapping turtle returns to the wild after his stay with the Turtle Team.


The coordination, dedication, and enthusiasm of North Carolina State University’s veterinary students has kept Dr. Lewbart’s vision for a wildlife treatment and rehabilitation program running smoothly for 20 years, and here’s to many more!

the TRT skittles brood