February 5, 2010

In the Spotlight - Wildlife Health Newsmaker Interview

Jonathan Sleeman, MA, VetMB, Dipl. ACZM, MRCVS


USGS National Wildlife Health Center

Madison, Wisconsin, USA
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Since July 2009, the Wildlife Disease News Digest staff has been bringing readers special features through our segment, In the Spotlight, on Fridays. Our newest addition to this informative segment is the Wildlife Health Newsmaker Interview.

Maintaining the health of wildlife is not just of interest to specialists, but professionals from related disciplines (e.g. public health officials, domestic animal veterinarians, conservationists, policymakers, etc.) and the public also share this concern. It is this unique mix of individuals that make up the wildlife health community, and almost all its’ members would agree that a holistic approach is needed in order to better manage and understand emerging diseases.

One step towards implementing this approach is for managers, practitioners and researchers to learn about the related work others are doing across different disciplines, and around the world. In this new segment, the Digest will introduce readers to the interesting, innovative and newsworthy work our colleagues are doing.

To the Interview. . . .

Our first interview is with Jonathan Sleeman, Director of the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, one of the core partners that support the NBII Wildlife Disease Information Node, the people who bring you this News Digest.

What are you working on now?
  • I am working on a number of interesting projects.
  • Writing a book chapter entitled, Wildlife Disease Surveillance Strategies, for a conservation medicine text book.
  • Developing a 5-year strategic plan for the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) which will help establish future research directions for the Center and its scientists. One area of research which will take priority is the study of ecosystem health and how wildlife health is interconnected with human, domestic animal and environmental health.
  • Reviewing new studies on the effects of contaminants on wildlife health. The Center has become increasingly more interested in further exploring this area of research.
  • Developing the NWHC operational budget.

How does your work benefit wildlife disease research?

I believe many of the routine tasks I do in my current position help to further wildlife disease research. I try to provide leadership and strategic direction on the research that is conducted at the Center. I feel I offer a big picture view of the current landscape of science which can assist with developing projects.

Finding funding for wildlife disease research is always challenging which is why I am continually on the lookout for sources. I spend time educating our stakeholders (e.g. Congress and wildlife professionals) about NWHC research projects and other capabilities through meetings and presentations which help to promote the importance of wildlife disease. In the end, I work to facilitate the activities the Center does and try not to get in the way too much.

What do you see as the most significant challenge for wildlife health professionals today working in the field of wildlife disease?

As a profession, we may not have all the resources we need for wildlife disease surveillance, prediction and management, but what we can do is utilize what we have now for the maximum effect. Also, we need to develop infrastructures for communication and information exchange that will support this goal. We are beginning to use these types of system structures and tools more, but we still have a ways to go.

At the technical level, we need to look for new approaches to doing integrated science. And, we need to look for new tools, such as those that could improve communications and surveillance methods.

What informational resources (e.g. book, journal, website, etc) should any wildlife health professional be familiar with?