International Veterinary Projects
The Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer offers some financial assistance to selected veterinary students engaged in international projects that help broaden their understanding and contributions to veterinary medicine.
To be considered for funding assistance, students must provide a project proposal. The proposal should
- state the key elements of the project
- explain how the project supports or contributes to the CFIA's objectives (food safety, animal health and public health)
- identify local, national and international partnerships, key contributors and the stakeholders of the project
- state who will benefit from the outcome of the project
- indicate whether the project is supported by your veterinary college
- identify all other sponsors
- list the itinerary and estimated budget
Past International Veterinary Projects
- 2011 International Veterinary Student Projects
- 2010 International Veterinary Student Projects
Two students from the University of Saskatoon Global Vets participated in a busy and life changing experience in Mongolia during the summer of 2011. A brief summary of their projects and travels follows.
We arrived in Ulaanbaatar on the 19th of May, and were warmly received by the Mongolian State University of Agriculture (MSUA) and the Institute of Veterinary Medicine (IVM). We worked with the MSUA and the IVM on a number of projects: we compiled a database of funding opportunities that enable the U of S and the Mongolian institutions to submit joint research project proposals; we became involved with a Mercy Corps training course for cooperatives of rural entrepreneurs, and gave a presentation on marketing of livestock in Canada; we attended the "First Symposium of Research Students from International Veterinary Schools", and the American Centre for Mongolian Studies' conference "A Case for Complexity: Accounting for Diversity in Mongolian History, Culture, and Ecology."
We also took four days to visit the MSUA's yak dairy and forage research station in the province of Arkhangai. High Mountain Research Station runs a breeding program with yaks and yak hybrids. The station also acts as a market through which herders can sell a yak cheese product (arolth). We spoke to herders in Arkhangai about their relationship with the station, and participated in the production of yak dairy products. We also shadowed a rural veterinarian in her work serving 50 000 head of livestock in Arkhangai.
In Ulaanbaatar, we toured Mongolia V.E.T. Net's Enerex Small Animal Clinic, and spoke to the clinic's veterinarians about small animal medicine in Mongolia. We brought the clinic a donation of medical supplies.
Some areas in Mongolia have far better access to veterinary services than others. The Tsaatan are a nomadic ethnic minority living in the remote taiga biome of Northwestern Mongolia. We wanted to learn more about Tsaatan culture and reindeer husbandry, and to contribute to community development projects being undertaken in the region. Itgel's Reindeer Life Project (RLP) focuses on research, treatment, and training on human and animal health issues such as calf mortality, infectious disease, nutrition, genetics, record-keeping, and herd-management. In Tsagaan Nuur, we introduced ourselves to the Tsaatan Community Visitors Centre (TCVC) manager and the two Itgel volunteers working at the centre. With the help of a local guide, we traveled to the taiga region to visit the West Taiga summer camp, learning about Tsaatan reindeer husbandry through observation and participation.
Upon our return to Ulaanbaatar, Itgel contacted us about editing the 2011 Reindeer Life Project report. We spent the greater part of a month working on the report in our spare time. We also compiled a reading list and an introduction to reindeer husbandry in Mongolia for students interested in pursuing research in the taiga.
We were interested in investigating other systems of livestock production in Mongolia, and to that end we traveled to Anak Ranch in Orkhon, Darkhan. We stayed at Anak for three days, asking questions and helping with daily chores such as milking, yogurt and cheese production, ring-banding calves, and painting cows (horns and flanks are commonly painted a conspicuous color to discourage theft).
Our final four weeks in Mongolia were in Hustai National Park (HNP), which is part of a project initiated in 1991 by the Foundation Reserves Przewalksi Horse (FRPH). The project's purpose is the reintroduction of Przewalski's horse to Mongolia, with the broader goals of restoration and conservation of biodiversity. We were involved in a number of projects in HNP. We worked with a Dutch masters student researching the effect of fly disturbance on grazing time in Przewalski's horse. We spent days in the field measuring fly densities with domestic horses, and conducted an inter-observer variability study of the park's eco-volunteer data. We also worked taking chick measurements with an American student studying the breeding ecology of Amur falcons. Although much is known about Amur falcon migration routes, little research has been done on chick growth curves and fledging.
HNP has an extensive buffer zone project that works with communities living near the park's borders. The goal of the project is to protect the park from local impacts, and to allow local people to benefit from having the park nearby. We brought a donation of Saskatchewan winter clothing to the buffer zone project. The clothing will be distributed at the beginning of the school year to low-income single mothers living in villages. We also created an educational power point presentation summarizing the characteristics and effects of common parasites in Mongolian livestock. The presentation emphasized the cost-benefit of parasite control, and the difference between cheap, counterfeit medications and more expensive, registered, imported products containing ivermectin.
Our experience in Mongolia was extremely positive, and we are grateful to all the people and organizations in Canada and Mongolia that helped make it possible.
In the summer of 2010, two students from the Atlantic Veterinary College (University of Prince Edward Island), Aquatic Externship Group participated in an eye-opening experience that broadened their knowledge of fish veterinarians.
Their externships involved six weeks abroad and two weeks on the west coast of Canada, joining local veterinary practices in their daily tasks related to fish health. They also joined students from the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science on a one-week aquaculture field course on the west coast of Norway. They were introduced to the Norwegian salmon farming industry. They also learned about heart and skeletal muscle inflammation, an emerging, frequently fatal disease. It is foreign to Canada, with outbreaks occurring in Norway and the UK.
They also toured several facilities including:
- a processing plant,
- a salmon hatchery and grow-out,
- a halibut nursery and grow-out, and
- a sea site research facility.
In Scotland, the students were involved with the Fish Vet Group. They participated in all aspects of the sea lice bioassay, such as collecting sea lice, sorting genders, and preparing the bioassay. They sampled salmon for pancreas disease at several sea sites because routing monitoring is paramount in managing the disease. This involved on-site tissue sampling for histology and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. They spent a day in England evaluating trout for parasites and preparing salmon smolts for radiography (to assess the presence of skeletal deformities).
In Galway, Ireland, the students worked with Vet-Aqua International and spent time analysing salmon filets from a smokehouse for flesh quality. They also visited several salmon and trout sea sites for general health monitoring, in addition to pancreas disease monitoring.
With the British Columbia Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, the students visited several sea sites to learn about sea lice auditing, post-mortems, disease sampling, mortality classification, and general fish health monitoring. They also spent a few days at the Pacific Biological Station looking at histology slides of various fish diseases, helping with disease sampling, and touring a coho and chinook salmon enhancement facility.
Through their time spent on these externships, the students greatly increased their knowledge of fish-related diseases, clinical practices, and problem solving. Much time was spent discussing pertinent European diseases such as pancreas disease and heart and skeletal muscle inflammation, which the Canadian industry has not yet experienced. Their knowledge of fish histology has certainly increased and both students feel more comfortable in this area as a result of their experiences.
In May 2010, five students from the Global Vets of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine embarked on the journey of a lifetime to Uganda. Their goals for the trip were to:
- gain an understanding of the role of the veterinarian in a developing country;
- learn about agricultural development, wildlife and ecosystem conservation, human-wildlife conflict and public health; and
- experience first-hand the challenges of international communication and collaboration.
Their first two weeks were spent in Queen Elizabeth National Park with wildlife veterinarian Dr. Ludwig Siefert - primarily tracking, immobilizing and radio-collaring lions while learning about ecosystem health, conservation and current issues within the park. One issue is the common practice of villagers from surrounding communities poisoning and poaching wildlife inside the park - in one day the locals poisoned six lions because they were preying on cattle that farmers were grazing illegally within park boundaries.
They participated in several necropsies, including an elephant calf killed by hyenas and a warthog with tuberculosis that was found in an AIDS-affected community - a considerable public health hazard. They also assisted in rescuing an adult female elephant caught in a poacher's snare, debriding the wound, administering antibiotics and taking samples and photographs for reference.
Next, the team worked with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) in the remote mountain Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The original goal was to run spay/neuter and rabies vaccination clinics in the surrounding villages, but the village leaders were not receptive to this. Instead, they spent much of our time working with the MGVP field veterinarian doing rounds and tracking and performing health checks on the mountain gorilla groups each morning before tourists were led into the jungle to see them. The experience showed us how Uganda works to protect this endangered species from poaching and zoonotic diseases, as well as how it monitors the populations to ensure their health and well-being.
In Uganda's capital city, Kampala, they reunited with Dr. Siefert for a trip to Lake Mburo National Park, where they joined 50 of his veterinary students from Makerere University in their course about wildlife and ecosystem health within the park. The course included learning about wildlife immobilization, and they were able to assist in the immobilization, monitoring and collection of samples from a zebra stallion in the park. They also necropsied a zebra that had been shot by locals because there are too many zebras and not enough predators - an issue that results in zebras leaving the park for better grazing in the surrounding ranchland, thereby transmitting pathogens and parasites to ranchers' cattle.
The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They came away from Uganda with a new-found appreciation for the challenges of wildlife conservation in the developing world and for the role of veterinarians globally. Between the human-wildlife conflicts, public health hazards and the ongoing battle between conservation and agricultural development, they gained a unique understanding of the complex web that is "One World, One Health".
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