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

Josie Daniel and Hunter Ferchaw, third year Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine (MSU CVM) veterinary students, spent this summer conducting research and assisting with clinical zoo cases, under the mentorship of MSU CVM adjunct professors and zoo veterinarians, Dr. Kim Thompson of Binder Park Zoo and Dr. Ronan Eustace of Potter Park Zoo, and Dr. Valerie Johnson, Assistant Professor with MSU CVM.  

“Drs. Thompson and Eustace have been great mentors: challenging me with clinical questions, allowing me to improve and practice new clinical skills, recommending valuable resources beyond our curriculum, and providing opportunities that will help me in my pursuit of a career in zoological medicine,” explained Josie. 

As part of the summer research program, Josie also worked in the Dr. Johnson’s regenerative medicine lab. Josie’s summer project was to determine if a sheep cytokine ELISA could be used to measure Giraffe cytokines and if changes in cytokine in giraffe serum could be used to document changes in inflammation following stem cell treatment. Josie also had the chance to travel to different zoos with Dr. Johnson and help administer stem cells to variety of zoo different species.  

Hunter’s research project is a continuation of one she began last summer with Drs. Eustace and Thompson, where she worked on establishing hematology reference intervals for neonatal giraffe calves. This year, she continued to create biochemistry reference intervals for giraffe calves. Giraffe calves can be particularly vulnerable to disease in the first few days of life, and Hunter’s project will provide information that will be invaluable to zoo veterinarians treating sick giraffe calves.   

“This has been my second summer working with Dr. Thompson and Dr. Eustace, and there has been no ‘typical day’ at the zoo. I learn something new every time I walk into the clinic. That’s what has been so exciting about zoo medicine for me, and I am so grateful to have had this unique opportunity to work up close with some really fascinating species,” said Hunter.  

As part of MSU’s Summer Research Project, both students presented their research at the
National Veterinary Scholars Symposium. On top of completing their summer projects, Josie and Hunter spent most of their summer days working alongside the veterinary departments at both zoos. This provided the opportunity to build their clinical skills on a variety of species: from physical examinations on a colobus monkey, to drawing blood on a lion, to monitoring anesthesia on a zebra – Josie and Hunter had an eventful and educational experience this summer!