Wildlife Health Assessment Program

BRI’s Wildlife Health Assessment Program will contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the biotic response to environmental pollutants by providing ecotoxicological and conservation medicine expertise in support of BRI’s current and future wildlife research endeavors. Globally, emergent wildlife diseases, human-wildlife disease interactions, ecosystem health, and environmental contamination are increasingly significant issues of concern. Through applied research and collaboration with wildlife health professionals, BRI’s Wildlife Health Assessment Program will enhance science-based conservation strategies and policy implementation to improve the health and integrity of wildlife and the habitats upon which they depend, and so, environmental conditions for human communities.

BRI’s Wildlife Health Assessment Program will promote the results of BRI’s ecotoxicological research to expand scientific and public awareness and understanding of the interrelatedness of human, wildlife, and ecosystem health (One Health).

“Health of wildlife indicates the health of the ecosystem.”
— Nina Schoch, DVM, Program Director

Program Director

Nina Schoch, DVM

Assistant Program Director/Field Veterinarian:
Donna Mensching, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT
Veterinary Technician: Michelle Brown

Program Goals

  1. Expanding BRI’s collaborative research programs to address critical wildlife and ecosystem health issues;
  2. Identification of nonlethal biomarkers for evaluating sublethal and lethal impacts of environmental contaminants to wildlife;
  3. Mitigating/addressing concerns related to ecotoxicological impacts to One Health;
  4. Providing timely response to emerging wildlife disease outbreaks and/or environmental contaminant exposures to assess resulting wildlife population and health impacts;
  5. Providing technical support and expertise for development of scientifically and statistically valid study designs to obtain baseline physiology information, determine contaminant levels, conduct pathogen/disease surveillance and risk assessments, and ensure biosecurity;
  6. Providing technical support and expertise for development and implementation of wildlife sampling, sample processing, and laboratory submission protocols, and for in-house laboratory analysis;
  7. Veterinary oversight of BRI’s scientific field research to ensure quality animal welfare of the capture and sample processing of animals;
  8. Addressing gaps in longitudinal baseline physiology information of wildlife species

Current BRI Projects

Initial studies conducted by BRI’s wildlife health assessment program have included health assessments for common loons in New York’s Adirondack Park, colonial waterbirds and secretive marshbirds as part of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment, and white-backed and Cape vultures in South Africa. In 2011-2012, the program will build on these projects to develop a rapid response team for evaluating the impacts to wildlife health from emerging wildlife disease outbreaks and/or environmental contaminant exposures. Potential projects for the coming year include assessing physiologic affects of possible oil exposure to common loons and northern gannets who wintered in the Gulf; continuation of health assessments for Adirondack loons and South African vultures; investigating the effects of PBDE residues on marine mammals; conducting fish eagle and ground hornbill health assessment and ecotoxicology studies in South Africa; and collaborating with Ugandan colleagues on a water contamination project and on an infectious disease project.