Potter Park Zoo and Binder Park Zoo Provide Hands-on Experience For MSU College of Veterinary Medicine (MSU CVM) Summer Research Student

Hunter Ferchaw, a second year veterinary student at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (MSU CVM), spent the past couple months as a Summer Research Student working with Dr. Kim Thompson of Binder Park Zoo and Dr. Ronan Eustace of Potter Park Zoo.  “The summer research program is a great opportunity to mentor the next generation of zoo veterinarians while performing valuable zoo medicine research, Dr. Thompson and I are grateful that as adjunct professors at MSU CVM, we can participate in this program,” said Dr. Eustace

Hunter’s research project focused on a subset of data from Dr. Thompson’s PhD project on zoo giraffe neonatal health and passive transfer. With Hunter’s project the goal is to establish hematology reference intervals in neonatal giraffe calves. Dr. Jennifer Thomas a clinical pathologist with MSU CVM has also been collaborating with the project.

“Giraffe face a variety of threats in the wild, such as poaching and habitat loss, and are undergoing what has been termed a silent extinction. The goal of zoos across the world is to maintain a genetically sustainable population of giraffe in order to conserve the species and the health of giraffe calves is vital to the success of this population. Understanding what normal bloodwork values should be for these calves provides zoo veterinarians with an improved ability to detect issues early on, intervene with veterinary care, and thereby improve our success rate,” said Dr. Thompson.

Besides working on research, Hunter has been spending part of her day working alongside the veterinary departments at both zoos…learning how to perform physical examinations, monitor anesthesia, and perform lab work on various zoo species. “Dr. Thompson and Eustace are great teachers and have served as mentors not only for my research but also for my path in pursuing a career in zoo medicine… a field of veterinary medicine in which mentorship and hands-on experience is absolutely crucial. I’m excited to apply the knowledge and skills that I’ve gained this summer as I return to school and prepare to enter my clinical years.” said Hunter.

This is the third year that Drs. Thompson and Eustace have participated in the MSU summer research program. Previous student projects have ranged from vitamin D metabolism in penguins, to novel herpes virus infections in antelope, to thyroid disease in red pandas. Potter Park Zoo and Binder Park Zoo are committed to enhancing the health and welfare of zoo animals through research and the education of aspiring zoo veterinarians.