Biodiversity Research Institute
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Wildlife Health Program
Wildlife Health Program

“Wildlife Health” is more than just the presence or absence of disease—it is the ability of wildlife to thrive in a changing environment. The health and resiliency of wildlife is influenced by many factors such as genetics, physiological capacity, disease status, exposure to environmental threats and pollution, interactions with human populations, and climate change. A broad perspective is needed to understand the interactions of these social and environmental factors when assessing and managing the health of wildlife.

Why Wildlife Health Matters

A healthy environment that includes thriving, resilient wildlife populations is, in turn, fundamental to the health and socioeconomic well being of humans. Environment, wildlife, and human health are interconnected and intimately influence each other. Wildlife is thought to be responsible for many of the emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) around the world. EIDs, introduced diseases, climate change, and pollution continue to impact conservation, public health, and economies. At a time of unprecedented environmental change, safeguarding the health of wildlife is increasingly important.

Program Director: Michelle Kneeland, D.V.M.
Senior Veterinary Advisor: Mark Pokras, D.V.M.

BRI’s Wildlife Health Program: One Health in Practice

Addressing these emerging issues in wildlife health requires a progressive organization capable of crossing geographic, taxonomic, and disciplinary barriers to implement a “One Health” approach. One Health is the integrative effort of multiple disciplines working together locally, nationally, and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment. BRI’s wildlife veterinarians operate at the interface of these three components, collaborating with a wide range of professionals to provide veterinary expertise in support of governmental and non-governmental organizations, universities, and research facilities.
Wildlife Health Monitoring

Wildlife Health Monitoring

BRI’s veterinarians collect comprehensive baseline health data on the many species we study. This vital information will help wildlife professionals better evaluate the health of free-ranging and captive species. In addition, BRI’s Wildlife Health Program conducts infectious disease surveillance, including viral, fungal, and parasitic infections, to monitor pathogens of conservation and zoonotic concern among wild populations. Representative projects focused on wildlife health monitoring include:

Toxicology Studies

Toxicology Studies

BRI’s wildlife health program investigates the complex linkages between exposure to environmental contaminants and health. By investigating ongoing and emerging sources of pollutants, BRI is working to preserve the health of ecosystems upon which humans and wildlife depend. Representative toxicology studies include:

  • Air quality and natural gas production in Wyoming: Assessing exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and health impacts in wildlife
  • Comparison of mercury exposure levels in moose from Wyoming, New York, and Maine
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and health assessment in wintering Common Loons and Brown Pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Lead poisoning in Maine’s Common Loons: documenting sources and prevalence
Mobile Surgical Capabilities

Mobile Surgical Capabilities

Fully equipped for mobile anesthesia and surgery, BRI’s wildlife veterinarians can offer technical veterinary expertise for wildlife research projects such as satellite transmitter implantations. By providing the highest standard of veterinary care, BRI promotes both ethical treatment of individuals as well as successful research outcomes.

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Wildlife Necropsies

Wildlife Necropsies

By conducting comprehensive post-mortem examinations, BRI’s veterinarians gather vital data on causes of mortality, disease, toxicology, and overall health status of many wildlife species. This information helps guide conservation priorities and policy. Information from wildlife necropsies contribute to the following studies:

Lab Capabilities

Lab Capabilities

The Wildlife Health Program utilizes in house diagnostic capabilities through BRI’s wildlife pathology and analytical labs.

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Program Director
Michelle Kneeland, D.V.M.
michelle.kneeland@briloon.org
207-839-7600 x206

Contributing BRI Staff
Nina Schoch, D.V.M.

Senior Veterinary Advisor
Mark Pokras, D.V.M.
Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
mark.pokras@tufts.edu

 
Photo Credits: Header photo © Maria Jeffs; Study Subjects: Moose and Mule Deer © Ken Archer; Common Loon and Surf Scoter © Daniel Poleschook; Ferruginous Hawk © Al Hinde; Yellow Warbler © BRI-Ian Johnson. Banded Ferruginous Hawk © BRI-Michelle Kneeland; Toxicology-test tubes © BRI-Rick Gray; Mobile surgical unit © BRI; Pathology necropsy © BRI-Vincent Spagnuolo; Lab © BRI
Biodiversity Research Institute