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Conservation Medicine Program

IN THE NEWS:

Zoo New England’s (ZNE) Conservation Medicine Program integrates wildlife conservation, research and education through research initiatives here at our Zoos, as well as in local, regional and international programs. Led by Dr. Eric Baitchman, Vice President of Animal Health and Conservation, the program takes a multidisciplinary approach. The three main tenets of this program include:

  1. One Health Education and Research
  2. Preservation of Biodiversity
  3. Genomic Medicine of Zoological Species

One Health Education and Research

MedicalexamOne Health Elective:

One Health refers to the idea that human, animal and environmental health are all linked. This approach encourages collaboration across all disciplines to deepen understanding, gain valuable insights and to ensure the best health for all – humans, animals and the environment.

Through a unique collaboration with the Harvard Medical School, senior medical students have the opportunity to complete an elective rotation with ZNE’s Department of Animal Heath and Conservation Medicine. The One Health Clinical Elective is believed to be the only formal collaboration of its kind in the country.

Student physicians in the One Health rotation accompany ZNE’s veterinarians in their daily clinical practice. Here, they are introduced to the concept that collaboration between human and veterinary medical professionals can benefit healthcare for both humans and animals. Students are encouraged to think about the commonalities of medicine and physiology of health and disease across all species, and to take an active role in case management, diagnostic work-up, and treatment. 

Preservation of Biodiversity

panamaniangoldenfrogConservation Medicine holds that the preservation of biodiversity enhances ecological health and in turn, the health of animals and humans. For over 10 years, ZNE has held a leadership role in the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, a multi-institutional international partnership to conserve critically endangered species of amphibians in Panama. This collaborative work focuses on rescue, treatment, captive breeding, research, and education programs developed to safeguard threatened amphibian species. Read more about the amphibian crisis and ZNE’s efforts here.

On a local level, in collaboration with Grassroots Wildlife Conservation, ZNE initiated the Franklin Park Biodiversity Project, through which native and invasive species, both plant and animal, are monitored to develop a better understanding of how they can coexist in an urban landscape. Observations are documented in seasonal surveys, providing data that can be used to protect biodiversity in the park and prevent further population declines in local wildlife. The community is invited to submit their own wildlife observations to the project using iNaturalist, and plans to involve local ecologists and biologists are underway. Read more about the project’s findings and how you can contribute your own wildlife observations.

Marbledsalamanderrelease BoxZNE veterinarians also provide veterinary support to conservation projects benefitting local species, working with biologists to study and protect Blanding’s turtles and marbled salamanders for reintroduction in the wild. ZNE gives these threatened reptiles and amphibians a “head-start” by raising them in the Zoo until they’re old enough and large enough to better survive in the wild, and then releasing them into their native habitats. Read more about these projects, done in collaboration with Grassroots Wildlife Conservation.

Genomic Medicine of Zoological Species

Zoo New England will bring next-generation genomic technologies and translational medicine to the care of zoo and wildlife species, with powerful benefits toward health and conservation of all species. This work promises to have broader impact on human health, evolution, and comparative genomics. The field of genomic medicine looks at the entire genome of individuals to look for adverse genes that cause heritable diseases.