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News & Press: Member Spotlights

ECZM ZHM Residency at the Zoological Society of London and Royal Veterinary College

Monday 10 October 2016   (0 Comments)
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Almost one year on from joining the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Royal Veterinary College (RVC) as their first European College of Zoological Medicine (ECZM) resident in zoo health management (ZHM), I can honestly say that the past year has been the highlight of my career.

This three year position at ZSL and the RVC is one of only six ECZM ZHM residency programmes in the world, the aims of which are to allow the resident to acquire an in-depth knowledge of zoo health management and prepare them for examination to become a specialist in this discipline. On a day to day basis, I spend most of my time working with the clinical veterinary team at ZSL London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo. This involves treating species as diverse as spiders, seahorses, frogs, flamingos, lizards and lions! I am lucky to be jointly supervised by two ECZM Diplomates, Edmund Flach (ECZM Diplomate in Zoo Health Management) at ZSL and Joanna Hedley (ECZM Diplomate in Herpetology) at the RVC. I am also supported with clinical cases by ZSL’s Head of Veterinary Services, Nic Masters, and Veterinary Officers Tai Strike and Fieke Molenaar. Through the ECZM, I attend regular tutorials via Skype to discuss topics of interest with other ECZM ZHM residents and Diplomates in this speciality. The RVC has also provided me with the chance to partake in a Masters programme (MVetMed) through which I have so far taken modules in wild animal health and large animal medicine. This has taken me on some fantastic field trips and introduced me to inspiring conservationists from around the world.

A highlight of the residency so far has been the opportunity to expand my interests in the fields of conservation and herpetology. I am fascinated by amphibians with their unique and diverse anatomical, physiological and ecological specialisations but unfortunately amphibian populations are in decline globally, making them a high priority for conservation efforts. Amphibian conservation research I have taken part in so far includes comparing the wild and captive diets and developing a body condition score system for the Critically Endangered mountain chicken (Leptodactylus fallax), as well as developing anaesthetic protocols for terrestrial caecilians. The former study took me on a five week fieldwork trip to the stunning Caribbean island of Montserrat. During this time I had the opportunity to learn from experienced fieldworkers from the Department of Environment, Government of Montserrat, while trekking deep into the forest each night to collect invertebrates for the study. While on the island, I also spent time helping to track down the last two known surviving wild mountain chickens on Montserrat. Finding them after many hours of nightly searches was a moment I will never forget and as a result we were able to prepare for the female to be translocated to the male’s territory to provide them with the opportunity to breed.

As well as opening up doors to pursue my research interests, the residency has provided me with the chance to teach veterinary students on clinical rotation at the zoo. I find my tutorials with the students are a two-way learning process: reviewing articles for journal club allows the students to learn about critical analysis of the scientific literature and the importance of evidence-based medicine, while it helps me start to work my way through the reading list for the ECZM exams!

With only one year of three almost completed, I am excited to see how many more exciting opportunities the ZSL/RVC residency programme will bring. I just hope it doesn’t fly by too quickly as I am enjoying it so much! 


Stephanie Jayson

ECZM Resident in Zoo Health Management
Veterinary Department
ZSL – London Zoo
Regent’s Park

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