EWDA lecture: “Introduction of the EWDA/WDA and wildlife disease research”
Free University Berlin, Germany:
- Alexander M. Hecht, PhD student at the IZW (Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research) in Berlin
- Catharina Vendl, doctoral student at the Clinic for Zoo Animals and Wildlife at Zürich University
- Dr. Gábor-Árpád Czirják, Wildlife disease scientist at the IZW
- Niccolò Alfano, PhD student at the IZW
On Wednesday the 13th of February, Alexander and I (Catharina, country representative Germany) organized an event at the free university of Berlin to introduce the (European) Wildlife Disease Association (WDA/EWDA) and wildlife disease research. When we first scheduled the event at the end of the semester, we were afraid just a few people would attend with exams coming up soon. But our fears were proved wrong, about 40 students attended the event in a small lecture room and made us almost run out of chairs.
Unfortunately, wildlife is often a neglected subject in vet schools’ curricula due to limited time. Because of this only very few students have gained experience in wildlife research and heard of the EWDA/WDA. As Alexander and I, have already gained some awesome experience at the WDA/EWDA conference in Lyon in July 2012 we decided to present the variety of possibilities the WDA and EWDA have to offer to vet students in a relaxed atmosphere during a two hour lecture. We also shared several examples of our own research experiences in wildlife disease and talked about all the aspects that it has to offer, i.e. working with free-living animals.
I gave an impression of the unique activities and fun the WDA provides such as meeting like-minded students from around the world while catching wild chamois in the Alps. I also briefly talked about my own wildlife and medicine research experiences that I gained during externships in Germany, Australia and the United States. Alexander gave an overview of his PhD project on the adaptation of lab methods to the special needs of wildlife immunology and about his efforts to find out more about immunological mechanisms in bats. Niccolò also talked about his PhD project, the challenge to sequence the koala retrovirus (KORV), how to find out more about its origin and its emergence threatening koala populations. For those who hadn’t been infected by the fascinating subject by then, were definitely inspired by Gábors talk about the necessity and the benefits of studying the diseases of free-living animals. Having participated in the EWDA student chapter as a country representative himself he talked about his own experiences and about the advantages of being involved in a network of wildlife disease scientists.
The students showed great interest in the presented topics by asking heaps of questions at the end of the session. For this reason we hope to have contributed to the spread of knowledge of wildlife disease research in general and the unique experiences the WDA, the EWDA and its student chapter has to offer.