San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico
July 23-28, 2017
The meeting literally started off with a bang, and the fireworks punctuated several of the presentations throughout the conference – the city was celebrating one of several Saint’s days. After the opening ceremony by outgoing president Marcie Uhart, we were welcomed to San Cristóbal by Gerardo Suzán, from Kalaan-Kab and the Latin American Section of the WDA, our gracious host for the meeting.
The scientific program began with AAWV member Carol Meteyer discussing emerging diseases and the opportunity to improve wildlife conservation through intervention. She was followed by the invited Al Franzmann Memorial Speaker, Frances Gulland, describing the plight of the vaquita, a critically endangered marine mammal in the Gulf of California. The excellent scientific presentations continued through the afternoon and the remainder of the week with a break on Wednesday for field trips to the zoo (ZOOMAT) and Sumidero Canyon. AAWV members gave 12 presentations and displayed 3 posters (Nancy Boedeker, Bieneke Bron, Mark Drew, Cindy Driscoll, Heather Fenton, Sonia Hernandez, Carolyn Hodo, David Jessup, Anne Justice-Allen, Jonna Mazet, Debra Miller, Jenny Powers, Mary Straub, Aubrey Tauer, and Michael Ziccardi).
At the annual meeting of the AAWV, outgoing president Peri Wolff thanked her officers, Vice President Sonia Hernandez, Treasurer Megin Nichols, Secretary Kevin Castle, Past President Colin Gillin, and newsletter editor Anne Justice-Allen, for their help during her tenure. She introduced the new officers, President Mark Drew, Vice President Tom Deliberto, Secretary Lisa Shender, and Treasurer Jennifer Ballard. The AAWV is also well represented in the leadership of the WDA with members serving as president (Deb Miller), Treasurer (Michael Ziccardi), Council Members-at-large (Mark Drew, Holly Ernest, and Heather Fenton), and the Wildlife Veterinary Section Chairperson (Anne Justice-Allen).
This year’s student presentations were even more exceptional than usual and the judges had a very difficult time choosing the winners for travel grants and scholarship awards. The AAWV Scholarship award was presented to Jenny Bloodgood for her Ph.D. thesis work on the effect of diet on the gastrointestinal microbiome of rehabilitating green sea turtles. Her work will undoubtedly change the way recovering green sea turtles are managed in captivity and will likely improve their survival upon release.
The Tom Thorne and Beth Williams Memorial Award is given jointly by the AAWV and WDA to individuals or groups who have made extraordinary contributions or achievements in wildlife disease research which resulted in either implementation of or change to wildlife management policy or who substantively increased our understanding of a particularly significant problem in wildlife health. In the past 10 years, one disease has caused dramatic changes to an ecologically significant taxonomic group. The appearance of White-nose syndrome in the eastern United States led to unprecedented declines in several species of cave-hibernating bats. Carol Meteyer and David Blehert working together at the US Geological Survey – National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, worked relentlessly to identify the fungal agent responsible for the disease, satisfying Koch’s postulates, defining the pathologic criteria for diagnosing this unique invasive dermal mycosis, and leading and contributing to studies that would elucidate the pathogenic processes of infection with Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Carol and David received the prestigious Tom and Beth Award in recognition of their contributions in our understanding of this devastating disease.