ECZM Wildlife Population Health Residency in London, UK
07 November 2016
When I moved to London one year ago to become the first European College of Zoological Medicine (ECZM) Wildlife Population Health resident in the United Kingdom, I was not entirely sure what to expect. Fortunately, my residency has turned out much greater than I could ever have hoped for. Being a resident at both the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Institute of Zoology (IoZ) gives me the best of two worlds. As a resident at the RVC, I am able to take modules of the MSc in Wild Animal Health as well as other modules as part of my Master of Veterinary Medicine programme (MVetMed). I feel extremely lucky to be a resident in a program that allows me to obtain a Masters during my residency. Additionally, RVC and ZSL have collectively four European veterinary specialists in Wildlife Population Health which is every resident’s dream situation.
Most of my time so far has been spent at IoZ where I am part of the Wildlife Epidemiology Theme. Here I get to work with and learn from several world leading veterinarians in the field of free-living wildlife health. The Wildlife Epidemiology Theme runs three main projects: 1) The Garden Wildlife Health project monitors the health of, and identifies disease threats to, British amphibians, reptiles, birds and hedgehogs. 2) The UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme coordinates the investigation of all cetaceans, marine turtles and basking sharks that strand around the UK coastline. 3) The Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance (DRAHS) for Interventions develops methods to analyse the risk of disease to interventions, such as reintroductions, undertaken for conservation purposes.
I assist with performing pathological investigations for all of three projects and lately I helped conduct health examinations of hazel dormice and pool frogs that are being reintroduced into the United Kingdom as part of the DRAHS project.
At the RVC I am a member of the Veterinary Epidemiology, Economics and Public Health Group. I am receiving training in epidemiological concepts and their application to understanding and managing disease in wildlife populations. Emphasis is placed on learning through doing which includes designing appropriate studies as well as collecting, analysing and interpreting data.
Since June 2016, I have been conducting a research project detecting and characterizing herpesvirus in free-living Western European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in Great Britain. The project utilised samples collected by the Garden Wildlife Health team and has now developed into a great study including a lot of different aspects of wildlife disease investigation and a range of molecular diagnostic techniques. I am very excited that I get to undertake research doing my residency and the plan is to publish the findings in a peer-reviewed journal.
For several years I thought I would end up doing a zoological medicine residency in North America. The American College of Zoological Medicine was established in 1983; however it was not until 2009 that the Wildlife Population Health subspecialty was founded under the European College of Zoological Medicine. There are currently six Wildlife Population Health residency programs in Europe and I find myself extremely lucky to be able to undertake a residency in this unique area of zoological medicine. I see it as a huge advantage to have received three years of superb postgraduate training within this field prior to starting a permanent position.
A photo from my first year as a resident, reintroducing pool frog
(Pelophylax lessonae) tadpoles. This program is managed by DRAHS.
Helle Bernstorf Hydeskov
MSc, DVM, MRCVS
ECZM Resident in Wildlife Population Health
Institute of Zoology
Zoological Society of London