October 2018


The plenary sessions included speakers Carlton Ward, from the National Geographic Society, Jack Payne of UF/IFAS, Rich Chapman of the USDA, and Thierry Work, of the USGS. Following those speakers were sessions on Outbreak Investigation and Response, and Global Wildlife Health Capacities. It was a motivating Monday to say the least!

Tuesday were the student presentations, and they once again were able to impress the entire conference with their passion for their research and the high bar they set for one another. The Student Research Recognition Award went to Sarah Sapp of the University of Georgia, for her work on Baylisascaris procyonis. The poster sessions for students also included inspiring work, and for the first time ever there was a high school student presenter, Madison Toonder, who worked through the University of Miami. Madison was also recognized at the conference banquet for her achievements.

Madison Toonder, youngest presenter Conference attendees during general poster session

Wednesday had split sessions, on Emerging Diseases and Conservation of Herpetofauna, Effects of Catastrophic Events on Wildlife, and Technological Advances in Surveillance and Medicine.

Picture 1) Ania Tomaszewic Brown (WCS): Development of a Rapid CDV Test Using Portable, Smart-Phone Driven, Molecular Diagnostic Technology
Picture 2) Nancy Boedeker (Indiana DNR): Identification and Geographic Distribution of Babesia spp in Mesocarnivores in Southeastern Massachusetts

Thursday began with three very exciting and engaging presentations from Chris Walzer of WCS, Sarah Funck from FL Fish and Wildlife, and Jon Paul Rodriguez of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. Later, there were split sessions on the Interface of Wildlife, Humans, Livestock and Companion Animals, and Marine Health, followed by Vector Borne and Zoonotic Disease, and the AAWV/AAZV joint session: Veterinary Challenges in Field Conservation. The general poster sessions were also quite well attended.

Friday morning there was a session on Welfare, Microbes, and Management of Wildlife Disease, followed by Rehabilitation Centers as Sentinels for Wildlife Population Health and concurrently, a Cervidae Health Science Symposium.

Certainly, we can’t forget to reflect on the good times had by all at the social events! The welcome social, student-mentor mixer, picnic, and auction night were all well-attended. The auction raised around $9000! $4200 will go toward the JWD endowment, and $5000 toward student activities.

The University of Florida Student chapter chose to share the $1000 WDA ‘thank you’ donation to their chapter with the University of Georgia and University of Tennessee chapters that pitched in.

As usual, there were many bright minds and excellent colleagues to celebrate, here is a rundown of the awards presented:

Student Awards

Presented by Tiggy Grillo, chair of the Student Awards Committee:

Oral Presentation Winners

  • Terry Amundson Award: Charlie Bahnson, University of Georgia 
  • Terry Amundson Honorable mention: Molly Martony, University of Florida

Poster Presentations Winners

  • Best Student Poster: Kayla Kauffman, University of Wyoming 
  • Honorable mention Poster: Amanda Dolinski, Michigan State University 

WDA Annual Awards and Recognition

Clockwise from top left:

    • Team Florida Organizers Samantha Gibbs and Samantha Wisely present Lisa Shender with an award for her leadership in organizing the 2018 WDA Annual International Conference. 
  • Chair of WDA Awards Committee Jim Mills presents Marcella Uhart with the WDA Ed Addison Distinguished Service Award. 
  • Jim Mills presents Ellis Greiner with the WDA Emeritus Award. 
  • WDA President Deb Miller and AAWV President Mark Drew present Lisa Wolfe with the Tom Thorne – Beth Williams Memorial Award. 
  • WDA President Deb Miller presents service recognition plaque to outgoing WDA Council member Alonso Aguirre. 
  • WDA President Deb Miller presents service recognition plaque to outgoing WDA Council member Mark Drew.

For more information on these awards, please visit the Awards and Recognition webpage.

The subject of environmental footprint has come up in a number of Wildlife Disease Association venues and discussions over the last year or so, and it is clear that many members may not know about the efforts we are already making in this area. WDA’s motto is “All Wildlife Diseases, All Conservation, All One Health, All the Time!” Part of our commitment to conservation and improving wildlife health includes decreasing our environmental footprint, or resaid, increasing the sustainability of our activities. A completely holistic look at this could get very complicated. But energy usage and its contribution to global climate change, although not the only measure to consider, can provide us some useful concepts, and is certainly relevant to some of WDA operations. (First 3 graphs provided by Thijs Kuiken)

WDA’s contributions to global warming are likely primarily through the process of producing Journal of Wildlife Diseases (paper pulp, packaging, fossil fuels, transportation); conduct of conferences (fossil fuels for travel, supporting hotel operations, food waste, packaging debris, etc); WDA business operations (Editor, Executive Manager and Officer travel and activities); and maybe some contributions from other things we do (compiling and emailing weekly News and Announcements and quarterly WDA Newsletters, committee activities, granting, and student support efforts). WDA, being a fairly small organization, has not commissioned its own energy audit or sustainability analysis, but we can take useful lessons from the efforts of larger organizations. The below shows the Society for Conservation Biology carbon footprint (a surrogate for energy consumption) for 5 years, including one year where no conference was held.


Clearly conferences are a major contributor to carbon footprint but are also one of the most useful and beneficial ‘products’ for members, particularly younger members seeking mentorship and experience. And, it may be a fallacy to assume that people attending conferences would not use energy if you didn’t hold your conference. If people go to WDA conferences for education, making professional contacts, and/or to see something new or interesting, would they just go to a different conference if WDA didn’t hold one? Would they go on vacation? Would their energy consumption really be less? Clearly, we (WDA) can’t control what our members do, but we can influence them, and we can provide less energy consumptive conferences. We can help show them the way.

The subject of conference energy footprint came up at the recent EWDA conference and an ad hoc committee to investigate it is being considered. But, for almost 10 years WDA has experimented with various ways of reducing energy use and waste at conferences. In some years we asked people to bring their own mugs, in others we provided a drink cup in the conference bag to avoid Styrofoam or paper. We have worked with conference hotels to reduce waste (with variable success). A number of good conference greening efforts were made, including use of recycled materials to make conference bags, at the European Section’s recent conference in Thesally, Greece. EWDA also experimented with projecting posters rather than printing them (it didn’t work very well). In most years we have only offered printed proceedings for the small number who really want and/or need them, providing that information to the majority on jump drive, app or by link.

In 2011 we experimented with recording the first couple days’ talks and providing them at the WDA website (it was expensive, member usage was low, but user format was primitive). We have offered conference attendees opportunities to contribute to carbon offsets, or conference specific greening opportunities (revegetation of the Rio Grande riverine corridor in New Mexico).

Our experimentation has been instructive, but now we need to pull together our experiences and make information more available to conference attendees and conference hosts. Over the next several years we will be trying to implement changes that will considerably reduce our conference energy footprint.

Travel to Conferences

Above is the carbon footprint of Society for Conservation Biology conference of 2017. As can be seen, air travel contributes about 70% of the total. Some alternatives are less frequent conferences, selecting conference venues that minimize air travel, optimize less energy intense local transportation, virtual conferencing, and purchasing carbon offsets. But something that WDA has pioneered is regionalization of conferences, holding several smaller conferences yearly, so that trans-ocean air travel can be minimized. This is often overlooked, and would seem to have significant potential.

Thijs Kuiken has recommended a paper “Sustainable Science? Reducing the Carbon Impact of Scientific Mega-meetings” (Ethnobiology Letters, 2011;2:65-71). It shows that an alternating schedule of national and regional meetings can reduce related CO2 emissions up to 73%. Assuming the proportions for air travel, waste, hotel, local travel etc. are similar, how much more sustainable (and energy/climate sparing) is having a WDA Conference in Florida (or California or Mexico for that matter) for 300-400, largely attended by North Americans; and a conference in Greece for 195 attended largely by Europeans and folks from the Mediterranean region; and one in Bali for about 150-200 attended largely by Australasian and Asian Pacific colleagues? The total attendance is about 750-800 (like WDA’s total in 2018), with far fewer airline ocean crossings required. If we wanted to do an actual pertinent comparison we could calculate trans-ocean airline carbon footprint of WDA’s three smaller meetings in 2018 with a single similar sized conference (750-800) for an entire organization, like AAZV-EAZWV this year in Prague or last year in Atlanta. Whatever we use for comparison, it appears regionalization of conferences is something positive that can be done to reduce the largest contributor to professional society conference carbon (energy) footprint.

Smaller regional meetings have other advantages. They can be held in places nearer to nature, at a more human scale, and can accommodate regional interests, customs and languages. They can be more personal (no 8-12 minutes talks, or triple split sessions), and allow more time for students and special topics. They also reduce our environmental impact and help us live up to our motto.

WDA has already gone further than many other organizations. Several of our regional (Section) meetings (EWDA, LAWDA and NWDA) are already every other year. And in many years the WDA-A meeting is one many folks drive to and camp at. The WDA pattern of meetings and conferences did not develop solely out of concern over sustainability, but it could be argued that their development for cost reasons, time constraints, and respect for local interests and customs, has been a surrogate for sustainability. WDA can be justly proud that its pattern of conferences is likely greener than most.

Other WDA Efforts to Increase Sustainability

One of the recommendations coming out of the ‘Futures Committee’ process is investing in virtual conferencing capabilities. The recording of presentations and sharing of them in some secure and efficient format. This is not as easy as it may first sound. Concerns have been voiced about compromising unpublished data, intrusion of critics or opponents of wildlife research, and loss of ability to have frank discussions. But, WDA is going to continue to experiment with this at the WDA 2019 Annual International Conference in North Lake Tahoe, California. U.C. Davis will be doing the recording and we are considering the most efficient and secure means of distribution.

Another WDA effort toward increasing our sustainability is encouraging movement toward receiving JWD online. Online content delivery is not free. About 60-65% of costs associated with the JWD would remain even if we went to online only, and some current revenue streams (advertising and other author paid fees) would be eliminated. Another future alternative may be ‘print on demand’ or other small batch printing options.

As seen above, the last 10 years show a very clear trend, and we have now just about reached the ‘crossover point’ where we have about as many regular online members as regular online plus print. Since essentially all student members and associates only get JWD online, only about 1/3 of WDA regular members, and about 1/3 of institutional members, now get print. A recent cost analysis has shown that the cost differential for print memberships was not sufficient to support the extra costs of printing, assembly, packaging, mailing and storage. So starting in 2019, WDA members who want print will need to pay $40 more, so other membership categories are not subsidizing those who want print. This adjustment, and an aging membership, may move us to the point where JWD is essentially an online journal in the next 10-15 years.

JWD has also joined the Forest Stewardship Council to assure all paper products are sustainably harvested. And we will be moving away from plastic wrapping of JWD, to the extent allowed by US Postal regulations.

Where do we go from here?

It’s easy to find fault with one aspect of a conference or another, various travel related issues, room temperatures too cold, too much plastic or paper waste, food wastage, etc, etc. But, Team California has vowed to take this on in a big way for the 2019 WDA Annual International Conference. This includes a venue that requires almost no climate control; yoga studio, gym, volleyball, swimming tennis and hiking all on grounds; 1 ½ miles private trail into town; bikes for local transportation; airport shuttle; and rooming, catering and drink services that are expressly green (no plastic bottles or styrofoam cups, all waste recycled). Beside winning gold and silver local chef competitions, Granlibakken has won multiple awards from the State of California for ‘greening’ of conferences. Our 2020 conference hosts in Spain have similar goals.

As noted, in New Mexico in 2014 we set aside some conference fees toward native plant restoration along the Rio Grande. Supporting more direct local conservation efforts is another thing WDA may consider in the future. WDA takes its commitments seriously, it takes your concerns seriously, and we take conservation and sustainability seriously. We hope this makes you proud to continue being a WDA member and assures you we want to ‘do well by doing good’.

Thanks to Thijs Kuiken and Marie-Pierre Rysser for comments and conversations of this subject.

We are closing in on our goal of raising $2.5 million to endow the costs of publishing JWD, and continuing to allow free access to it in 124 nations with medium to low per capita GDP. The income from this endowment will provide WDA with a third steady source of funding that will allow us to add member benefits and programs in the future, while:

  • Keeping all current member benefits 

  • Keeping membership costs low 

  • Supporting students 

  • Supporting international 

  • Sections and membership 

We have an anonymous donor who will match all member contributions to the JWD endowment made during our October 2018 – January 2019 membership renewal drive, up to a total of $5000. So, your contribution could be doubled! We only have a little way left (dotted line), so please consider giving.

Other ways to help include finding a sponsoring agency, organization, company or university (contact jgaydos@ucdavis.edu). Or maybe donating a used car, boat, or RV at: http://www.careasy.org/nonprofit/wildlife-disease-association---wda

Many people have heard of ‘Go Fund Me’ campaigns, but crowd funding is relatively new to science. In June, WDA decided to partner with the goal driven small company Experiment to try out this new way of funding wildlife health/disease projects. Experiment had run a wildlife disease funding effort in 2017 with pretty good success, but not with sufficient response they felt they could continue on their own. WDA’s Futures Committee had identified grant funding for small research projects, particularly those supporting graduate students, as a potential priority. But before recommending it to Council as part of planning for WDA’s programs and benefits after Endowment is reached (see “2019 May be the Year”) the Futures Committee wanted to try it once as an experiment.

WDA put out a grant call in early July 2018. To qualify grant proposals needed to:

  1. Deal with a significant health or disease issue in free-ranging marine or terrestrial wildlife.
  2. Have implications for, or a focus on, wildlife populations and the ecosystems in which they live, not individual animal treatment and/or captive wildlife. 
  3. Emphasize species conservation and application of a One Health approach.

As this was a crowdfunding call, grant applications and the entire process is different from traditional funding, particularly in the way proposals are written, and in funding expectations. Most frequently crowdfunding is successful for student or graduate student, and smaller projects, and where there is urgency for getting work done on emerging issues, or to pump-prime more comprehensive engagement. Average amount raised for successful proposals is in the $4000 range.

Experiment put out the initial call and counseled and mentored grant proponents. WDA reviewed each proposal for compliance with the calls criteria and some of the nineteen initial proposals were rejected.

Once the group of grants were deemed qualified the grants call went live. The call lasted 31 days (July 1, 2018 - August 1, 2018). Although both Experiment and WDA publicized the grant call, grant proponents bore the primary responsibility for lining up support. This is one big difference between crowd funding and traditional funding. Grant proponents must follow through and promote and publicize their grants, help find supporters and advocates throughout the process. Coaching by Experiment on how to do this proved critical to the success of several projects.

WDA was to provide $1000 to the most highly supported project and $500 to the second most highly supported project after 21 days. But we had a tie! Winning projects tied with 134 pledges each. Both Stephanie Norman’s project on antibiotic resistance in marine mammals and Wynand Goosen’s on Tb in black rhino got 134 pledges and they are splitting the two top prizes ($750 each).

At 30 days in WDA member author/mentor, prizes of $100 each were awarded to Henry Adams for his project on Bsal in Costa Rica (48 backers), Terra Evans for Asian elephant herpesvirus work (71 backers), Haley Stannard working on mange in wombats (14 backers), and to Amy Robbins project on chlamydia in koalas (27 backers). By time of publication, all projects have received complete funding!

Funds should be available to winners by approximately October 1, 2018. It is expected that the successful applicants will provide appropriate feedback on the outcomes of the work in the form of ‘lab notes’ and WDA will post these at its website.

In total, the 17 accepted projects raised $60,276 and 687 donors got involved. Eight of those projects are now fully funded (or more!) There are 8 more projects still fundraising, and only one project failed. It was a great ‘experiment’ and may become part of the package of programs to be recommended to Council by the WDA Futures Committee. For more information, and to check out the projects still working on fundraising, see: https://experiment.com/grants/wda

Marianthi Ioannidis
Utrecht University

Dear worldwide WDA community, my name is Marianthi Ioannidis and I’m really happy to be the WDA Student Representative! I’m currently the Belgium country representative for the European WDA student chapter. Over the course of my studies I really enjoyed taking part in student activities at my university as I saw it a very interesting and fun way to get to know more people while still being involved in my course. For example, in 2014 I joined a student association focused on marine mammals and bird conservation, pathology and medicine. I had the opportunity to take on different roles and to organize many activities with the members. So far, these include, but are not limited to, necropsies, excursions and lectures. Then in 2015 the previous students decided to start a student chapter in Belgium and the year after I became one of the country representatives. That year was special for us because my Flemish colleague (Anna Baauw) joined us too. Our main objective was to create a new connection between the French part and the Flemish speaking parts of our country to allow more collaborations in the future.

We organized different events like Causes of death in marine mammals along the Belgian coast, Bat threatening or threatened, the anatomy of the elephant, and more. Our most successful event and biggest accomplishment to this date was the organization of a 2-day event: Wildlife Conservation, Turning Science into Practice. We had a lot of different nationalities attending this event, most of them were students. This was the real satisfaction: creating an event where people from different countries, different fields, different cultures, but with the same interest, have the opportunity to meet in the central country of Europe. And I believe that this is what the association should aim to create: a big family. I have been a qualified vet since the beginning of July and my professional interests are mostly oriented in the wildlife pathology area. This interest developed during my studies thanks to the marine mammal stranding network at the university of Liège where I was able to take part in the necropsies during those last 4 years. To pursue this professional interest, I will do a practical as an Erasmus student at the pathology department of Utrecht University starting in January 2019. I also love traveling a lot, I believe networking is essential to develop knowledge and to share experiences, this is why I take every opportunity to travel and to attend international events and workshops.

Regarding the future of the WDA student chapters one thing that I would really love to help promote is an Asian student chapter. This year I had the amazing opportunity to go to Japan where I was able to work on wildlife pathology at the university of Osaka Prefecture University which gave me a unique prospective on the Japanese student community. There, I met students sharing this same interest. When I was there, I thought to myself: “why are there no student organisations?” It’s time now to share and create something with them! I also spent a lot of times in a zoo to practice and noticed the same thing: a big number of students interested in wildlife but without a student organization. If we really want to extend this strong community of the WDA, we can’t do it without this huge missing continent. Especially without the younger generation who represents the future. On top of that, Asia could also be a wonderful continent to try to find new mentors for our worldwide students to help expand the student-mentor programme. At least, next to the regular work of a WDA student representative, other small projects could also be carried out. For example, the creation of a common international student calendar. Also each representative visiting a foreign university could try to organize events to promote WDA in universities without a student chapter. It would be a very active way to continue to build this strong student community. We can also expand the use of the new platform that we have: the YouTube channel! We could ask the student chapters of each continent, or each country representative, to create a short video clip showing previous events or announcing upcoming events to help to spread the word.

I’m confident that I can accomplish at least some of these goals and set new goals for the advancement of the student chapter. See you soon!

The First North American Student Workshop is Back!

Photo credit: Google images

We are back! And we need your help to spread the word and share your funding connections! From August 1st to 4th, the 3 days before the 2019 WDA conference in Tahoe City, CA, graduate and professional students can join the first North American WDA student workshop at UC Davis. Our goal is to dive in and beyond the wildlife disease outbreak to gain essential tools for maintaining healthy wildlife populations. We would like to welcome, you, the future wildlife health researcher to our workshop, where you can interact with leading experts in the field.

The workshop will consist of lectures and hands-on sub-workshops (such as outbreak analysis in R, breaking down the structure and backbone of a wildlife disease outbreak investigations, and population persistence in the face of human and disease pressure). There will also be social time and possibly even an outbreak game! Lodging will be in the dorms at UC Davis with food included. We are currently working hard to keep costs low.

Despite putting a lot of energy and effort into planning last year’s workshop, we had insufficient funding by our February 1st cut off and had to cancel. Hereby, we would like to thank the WDA board for their faith in us, and Dave Jessup for his continued support of our efforts and troubleshooting the cancellation.

That said, the team has expanded, and you can connect with any of us to share your suggestions, especially considering funding. We are: Rebecca Hardman (University of Tennessee), Rachel Ruden (Iowa State University), Italo Zecca, Jamie Benn and Skye Sneed (Texas A&M University), Laura Adamovicz (University of Illinois), Shannon French (University of Guelph) and Bieneke Bron (University of Wisconsin - Madison). We are excited to make it happen and hope to see you there!

Check out our website - www.wdastudentworkshop.org.
Sign up for our newsletter or send us an email at wdastudentworkshop@gmail.com!

Have you been wondering if your university has a student section or if there is one in your region? Here is a current list of all active sections, linked to their webpage:

  • Australasian (WD A- A) Student Chapter
  • European (EWD A) Student Chapter 
  • Latin American (L A-WD A) Student Chapter 
  • Southern Africa Wildlife Disease Association Student Chapter (University of Pretoia
  • Atlantic Veterinary College Student Chapter 
  • Colorado State University Student Chapter
  • Kansas State University Student Chapter
  • Michigan State University Student Chapter 
  • Oklahoma State University Student Chapter 
  • Oregon State University Graduate and Professional Student Chapter 
  • Ross University Student Chapter 
  • Texas A & M University Student Chapter 
  • University of Calgary Student Chapter 
  • University of California-Davis Student Chapter 
  • University of Florida Student Chapter 
  • University of Georgia Student Chapter 
  • University of Guelph Student Chapter 
  • University of Illinois Student Chapter 
  • University of Minnesota Student Chapter 
  • University of Pennsylvania Student Chapter 
  • University of Saskatchewan Chapter 
  • University of Tennessee Student Chapter 
  • University of Wisconsin Student Chapter 
  • Washington State University Student Chapter

If you don’t see your region/ university listed, get started today on creating it with your colleagues! Step 1 is visiting the WDA Student Chapter page online , and checking out the details.