January 14, 2011

In the Spotlight : Wildlife Health Newsmaker Interview with Dr. Fredrick (Ted) Leighton

NBII Wildlife Disease Information Node Wildlife Disease News Digest - In the Spotlight

Wildlife Health Newsmaker Interview with
Dr. Frederick A. (Ted) Leighton

Who are you?
Dr. Frederick A. (Ted) Leighton
Executive Director
Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre (CCWHC)
CCWHC Headquarters
Western College of Veterinary Medicine/ University of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon, Canada - Map It

What are you working on now?
  • Helping Sri Lanka (formally known as Ceylon – Map It ) - As a Collaborating Centre of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the CCWHC team is sharing their expertise and knowledge about wildlife disease to help Sri Lanka, an OIE member country, to develop the capacity to detect and manage wildlife disease.
  • Developing new governance policies for CCWHC.
  • Fund-raising for the CCWHC.
  • Preparing for the annual national meeting of CCWHC professional staff.
  • Authoring a paper on cormorant diseases.
  • Developing a training workshop on wildlife disease surveillance for OIE member countries.
  • Preparing for an upcoming meeting, the OIE Global Conference on Wildlife Health and Biodiversity.

How does your work benefit wildlife disease research?
CCWHC is a national research organization with activity distributed among Canada’s five veterinary colleges. The CCWHC coordinates Canada’s national disease surveillance program. Surveillance plays an important part in scientific discovery and has on many occasions given rise to new research projects. In addition, CCWHC’s mandate includes providing education opportunities which is fulfilled in part by engaging graduate students to participate in CCWHC’s many research activities.

What do you see as the most significant challenge for wildlife health professionals today working in the field of wildlife disease?
The most significant challenge is the unprecedented speed and scale of environmental changes occurring today due to unprecedented human numbers and human activity in North America and around the world. These environmental changes are radically changing patterns of occurrence and intensity of occurrence of diseases in wild animals, and they are driving new and more frequent transmission of pathogens from wild animal populations to human and domestic animal populations.

To achieve a reasonable standard of health in any of these populations we must achieve that standard in all three and in the biosphere that supports us all. This is a challenge to the sciences associated with wild animal health and disease that is both daunting and urgent.

What informational resource (e.g. book, journal, website, etc) should any wildlife health professional be familiar with?
The phrase “wildlife health professional” includes people with knowledge and expertise in many different fields. No one body of knowledge, journal, textbook or canon is appropriate to all. The skill and capacity that is required of all of these people is the ability to apply their particular knowledge to complex issues through collaboration among multiple fields and disciplines. This is a new imperative and effective collaboration to tackle global issues is a challenging task that humankind is just beginning to learn how to do.

Anyone interested in wildlife disease should be aware of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report and the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations.