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ZEW

Sunday, October 13, 2013 Mikentire 0 Comments Category : , , , , , ,

ZEW stands for Zoo, Exotics, & Wildlife - it's one of the clubs I'm a part of here at vet school.  If you know me at all, you'll know it's basically everything I could ever want in a club and I absolutely love it.  I've had some incredible opportunities to work with knowledgeable veterinarians who are willing to take time to teach us some pretty cool stuff.

So what is an exotics club like at a veterinary school?  Let me tell you.

A couple weeks ago, I got to attend ZEW's deantlering wetlab.  A&M has a Wildlife Center that allows us to get a chance at learning the management and medicine of non-domestic species.  It's pretty neat.  There is a herd of white-tail deer does and a few males separated from them for population control.  Every year as the bucks finish growing their antlers and shedding their velvet, the ZEW students get to help with deanterling.  Male deer use their antlers to fight each other and normally in the wild they can run away if those fights get intense.  That's not so much an option here at the wildlife center, so we remove their antlers every year to keep them from hurting each other.

We started out bringing one of the bucks named Buck (creative I know) into the restraint center which has these amazing catwalks to give you access above the stalls.  Dr. Blue darted him to get him his anesthesia and soon the procedure was underway.

Buck Before the Deantlering
In Physiology, we had just been learning about the muscarinic acetocholine receptors of the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest one as opposed to the fight or flight one).  As Buck went deeper into anesthesia, his heart rate was slowing down (which is typical) so to keep his heart rate up where it needs to be we gave him some atropine - a muscarinic receptor blocker.  It was so cool to actually see the importance of what we had just learned a week before in class.  The parasympathetic system then couldn't further depress the heart rate and we were able to keep him stable and get the job done.  It was awesome.

And After.  He's still sleeping on the floor in this pic.
But the coolness doesn't end there.  I'm also a part of the Exotic Cat Team.  How cool does that sound? Taylor and I signed up to help take care of the two servals at the wildlife center.  SERVALS.  It's awesome. Their names are Morpheus and Camilla.

An African Serval Cat Who's Pretty Chill Like Morpheus
Morph tends to be pretty chill.  He mews a lot and likes to spray his enclosure basically all the time but he's definitely my favorite.  Camilla likes to remind us that Servals are not domestic kitties.  All the time. She likes to remind Morpheus of that too, but he just seems to ignore her.

Another Serval with a More Camilla-like Demeanor
Every morning and evening during the weeks we are on, Taylor and I meet up at the Wildlife Center to get them their food and to do some brief cleaning.  There are a series of doors we open and close to shift them around the enclosure so we can make sure they get their food separately (Cami will steal Morphs food if she gets the chance) and to make sure the whole enclosure is cleaned and that we are never in there with them. It totally reminds me of the back area of Asian Highlands at Utah's Hogle Zoo and gives me a little glimpse into how awesome being a cat keeper must be.

Yesterday was another of ZEW's awesome wetlabs.  After tending to Morpheus and Camilla at 7 a.m., I went straight over to school where I participated in some of the coolest labs and lectures.

From 8-10, I learned all about avian reproductive anatomy and how to perform a spay from Dr. Steve Fronefield from ABC - Animal & Bird Clinic.  Did you know that the Kiwi has the largest egg to body size ratio?  Well it does!  Check out this crazy image to give you a clue just what I mean.

Looks Uncomfortable to Me
Isn't that crazy?  They don't eat a few days before laying because they just can't!

After learning all about the anatomy, we got to go into the anatomy lab to practice our new surgery skills on some chickens after performing a brief necropsy.  It was really cool.  The yolk starts out on the ovary with the oocyte and then when the follicle ruptures, it travels down the uterine tube slowing forming the shell as it goes along (mostly around the shell gland right before the cloaca).

Crazy, Huh?
Then from 10-noon, I got to sit in on an awesome lecture on fish anesthesia.  I definitely had a leg up because of working at the Aquarium of the Pacific and in Dr. Johnson's Lab at BYU.

Mandarin Goby
Alison Wilkes, one of the PhD students at TAMU taught us all about it.  She also talked about a bunch of cool procedures that she is doing for her research.  She studies the role of iodine on thyroid tissue in fish by using high resolution PET/CT scans on fish injected with radioactive iodine to obtain 3D images of fish anatomy and iodine uptake.  It's pretty cool stuff.  Here's one of the pictures she took.



After a yummy lunch, I then got to attend a lecture on wildlife medicine and rehabilitation from Dr. Melissa Hill and John Karger from Last Chance Forever - a raptor rehabilitation facility located in San Antonio.  We learned all about donating our time and passion towards helping wildlife.  Whether it be a Barn Owl...


...or a Bobcat..


...or a Bald Eagle, they had something to teach us about that species' medical needs and rehabilitation.  It was incredible.


It really impressed upon me that no matter where I end up as a veterinarian that I will always have the opportunity and privilege to help with conservation efforts if I am willing to donate my time and resources to helping wildlife.  It also made falconry seem crazy awesome.

Then from 3-5 I was learning about sea turtles and their anatomy and conservation needs from the good doctors at the Texas Sea Life Center.  Do you know why the Green Sea Turtle is called the Green Sea Turtle?


It's actually because their fat is green.  The adults have a herbivorous diet that gives their adipose tissue a green color.  After learning all about chelonian anatomy, we got to go into the anatomy lab again to do necropsies on four young green sea turtles.  It was so cool.  Because of their shell, they don't need lots of muscles around their body wall.  So once you get inside it's basically really huge pecs and some glutes.  And that's about it for muscles.  Their lungs sit at the back of their carapaces and, like land turtles and tortoises, they breathe by moving.  As they do so, their muscles move around to expand the areas for the lung to fill.  It was really cool to see.

After that, we got to have a meet and greet with all the cool doctors (there were other classes going on besides the ones I took) and to do some networking.  Then it was back to taking care of Morph and Cami.

ZEW is awesome.  Vet school is one big adventure.  I love me some zoo medicine and I can't wait to play a bigger part in it!

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