Veterinary-Undergraduate One Health Teams in the Congo, Uganda and Indonesia - Linking the classroom with communities to conserve endangered Rhinoceroses and Great Apes.

Principal Investigator: Robin Radcliffe

Co-PI: Julia Felippe

Department of Clinical Sciences
Sponsor: John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation
Title: Veterinary-Undergraduate One Health Teams in the Congo, Uganda and Indonesia - Linking the classroom with communities to conserve endangered Rhinoceroses and Great Apes.
Project Amount: $46,241
Project Period: January 2020 to December 2020

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): 

Students in the professional DVM program at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine are well trained in biomedical and diagnostic sciences through our Cornell resources; however, they lack satisfactory real-life training with structured programs that focus on the social, cultural, political and economic aspects of biodiversity conservation programs. Our unique teaching program links a Cornell DVM-student with an undergraduate to develop a team that offers a new model for peer-learning with specific outcomes that are meaningful to the needs of communities. Through direct experiences at established field sites in Indonesia, Uganda and Republic of Congo, and Cornell faculty mentoring, students will develop a focused project in conservation medicine. Specifically, student participation will fall within one of three partnering programs: in Indonesia, “Rhinoceros Health and Human Co-existence”; and in Africa, the “Protection of Great Apes” or “Healthy Habitats”. Both rhinos and primates are flagship and keystone species symbolizing the diversity of their forest homes in Asia and Africa. As such, they share similar struggles in the form of direct human conflict (snaring, poaching for bushmeat and illegal trade), habitat loss (conversion of forest to agricultural production), zoonosis and emerging diseases—problems inseparable from human livelihoods.

Student engagement, learning and research will meet the following specific aims:

Aim 1: Students will enroll in our spring One Health course series (VTMED 6743; NTRES 4150), which includes not only the science of conservation and One Health principles, but importantly, the socieconomic factors that underpin and influence health determinants of animals and people.

Aim 2: As part of the spring course students will form multidisciplinary teams in order to complete a Research Plan focused on a community problem in conservation that impacts local people in farming or forestry communities and the wild species that share these working landscapes in tropical rainforest environments. Student teams will create a plan for study design including sample size and power calculations, predicted impacts on community and the ecosystem, preparation of a budget to support the research activity and a plan for sharing information with the local partner and community.

Aim 3: A subset of students from the spring course will get the opportunity to implement their research plan through completion of an engaged learning course (VTMED 6744; NTRES 4960) that engages students in the practice of One Health and Conservation Medicine. Student teams will complete a jumpstart language and culture course specific to their chosen geographic location. DVM students will focus on disease surveys of risk to rhinos and buffalo, javan rhino health strategies, tabanid fly distribution and disease vector biology. Undergraduates will focus on ecology, biology, animal science or socio-economic themes of a research question.These studies involve field activities such as parasitic screening of rhinos and great apes, vector traps and taxonomic keying, laboratory analyses, GIS mapping, community discussions, meetings with public health and national park authorities, working with children, etc. Community partners will supervise student teams while DVM students will mentor undergraduates.

Aim 4: Student teams will present their findings in country before their partners and the local community. Upon their return to Cornell, students will enroll in a reimmersion debriefing course (VTMED 6745; NTRES 4940) where all 4 teams can discuss with faculty and peers alike, the conservation successes, challenges

and next steps for each of their projects and communities. Students will present, debate and enter into dialogue with their peers about the role of veterinary medicine and related disciplines in conservation and one health programs.