CANR pre-veterinary medicine major conducts equine research at UPenn

November 5, 2013 under CANR News

UD student Meredith Bonnell interns at UPENN's New Bolton CenterMeredith Bonnell, a junior pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at the University of Delaware, spent her summer conducting a research-based internship at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center at the Havemeyer Barn.

Bonnell’s research project, which she designed with Sue McDonnell, focused on the genetic effects on the learning abilities of ponies. McDonnell received her doctorate in reproductive physiology and behavior from UD and now heads the Equine Behavior Program at UPenn.

The center, located in Kennett Square, Pa., includes 700 acres of pastureland and exposure to experts in equine-based medical and surgical techniques. “The ponies that occupy some of that land are a part of a semi-feral herd used for equine research,” Bonnell said. “They undergo annual vaccinations and de-worming, in addition to blood work and basic handling when they are foals.”

The New Bolton Center is a large facility that specializes in many different types of veterinary care practices for horses and other large animals. The facility serves to generate data for medical specialists including cardiologists and orthopedists as well as for trainers seeking performance evaluations.

Bonnell’s research at the Havemeyer Barn utilized target training on a 100-count semi-feral Shetland-type pony herd to test learning ability, using performance scores generated to examine correlations between them and genetics, or known family lineage.

“Target training is relatively new to the equine industry and is connected with clicker training,” Bonnell said. “We’re typically familiar with its use on marine animals, like those we might see at SeaWorld.”

Bonnell said in order to test how she would collect data and gather equipment lists, she did extensive research and conducted preliminary tests on ponies removed from the semi-feral herd to be used on rotation for studies by the veterinary students at UPenn.

All of her sessions, she said, were videotaped and used as a reference in order to collect sufficient and accurate data.

Bonnell said she was excited to find this internship with McDonnell through a friend working in the neonatal intensive care unit at the center. She is currently working toward publication of her work and will continue research as independent study.

Bonnell said she hopes to pursue a career in equine veterinary field and plans to apply to veterinary school after graduating from UD.

Article by Angela Carcione

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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UD student Volpone travels to Africa to work with exotic animals

March 20, 2013 under CANR News

southafrica922On her second day in South Africa, University of Delaware student Melissa Volpone found herself doing something out of the ordinary: petting a lion. That seemed appropriate because, after all, one of the main reasons that she was wanted to go to Africa was because of a lion, albeit a cartoon one.

“I’ve wanted to go to Africa since The Lion King came out,” said Volpone, a sophomore pre-veterinary major in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, adding that the lion she petted didn’t even seem to notice. “The lion didn’t even care, he just swiped at me with his claws in and it was awesome. It was so cool.”

The lion that she was able to pet was not just a random wild lion, but rather a lion that was raised in Moholoholo, a wildlife rehabilitation center that Volpone was able to work with through an organization called Go Eco. Volpone said that she learned about Go Eco during her time interning at the Philadelphia Zoo, and before she knew it, she was in Hoedspruit, South Africa, taking care of animals.

Volpone explained her day-to-day routine involved mostly general animal care rather than veterinary care. “I would get up at 6 a.m., seven days a week and feed and clean animals until 8:30 a.m., and then get breakfast,” explained Volpone. She said that all of the volunteers got together to clean the big animal cages and the big water bowls, as well as go on the occasional hike.

Another aspect of her job involved playing with or feeding the baby animals. In particular, there was one baby rhino that needed constant attention.

“We had this 11-month-old baby rhino that needed babysitting because it had to be with its human mom all day long, and every once in a while the mom needed a break. So we just stayed with this baby rhino for awhile, who was sometimes sweet and sometimes not,” explained Volpone.

The baby rhino was not the only infant on the site either, as Volpone said that she arrived “during baby season so there were babies all the time. I helped feed some lion cubs and I raised my own baby bird.”

Besides petting a lion and babysitting a rhino, Volpone was also able to do something else out of the ordinary: take a cheetah for a walk. “We walked with these cheetahs and they weren’t babies, they were full grown cheetahs and we just chilled with them,” she said.

Volpone encourages those interested in volunteering at Moholoholo to do so, as she said the experience was absolutely incredible.

As for her, she now has the travel bug and said that she would like to explore everywhere. “I can see myself as an adult just taking trips back to Africa to work at places like this, but now I want to go somewhere else. There’s a World Vets trip to Cambodia next winter that I’m looking at and I’d love to see New Zealand and Fiji. My friends and I are planning on going to Europe before we graduate. I want many different experiences.”

Ag Ambassador

Now that she is back in Delaware, Volpone, who is an Ag Ambassador in CANR, said that she is looking forward to giving tours as an Ag Ambassador and helping students see the opportunities afforded to them by the college.

Volpone explained that when she was trying to make her decision about which University to attend, it was an Ag Ambassador tour that ultimately swayed her to come to UD. “I went on a Ag Ambassador tour and it was very informative. The ambassador drove me out on the farm, she answered all my questions, and that’s when I decided to come here.”

She added that she enjoys having the opportunity to show off the perks of UD to potential students now that she is an Ag Ambassador. “I love helping students. I had a student last semester and this place was so far from her home but she wanted to go here so badly because she saw the farm, and so that’s what I love about it.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Video by Adam Thomas and Christy Mannering

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UD’s Carroll returns to animal care roots at Delaware Humane Association

March 18, 2013 under CANR News

For Patrick Carroll, serving as the executive director of the Delaware Humane Association (DHA) is akin to coming full circle since his days as an undergraduate student majoring in animal science in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

UD Alum Patrick Carroll serves as executive director of Delaware Humane AssociationCarroll started out as a pre-veterinary student before deciding that it just wasn’t for him and transitioned into a career more focused on 4-H and youth development. “I got a work study job with New Castle County 4-H and I kind of fell in love with 4-H and youth development and education, so I wanted to be a 4-H agent,” he said.

Carroll worked with Mark Manno, a Cooperative Extension specialist who he said “really helped me a lot — just gave me great experiences and mentored me, and I really owe my love for 4-H to him.” 

Carroll noted how ironic it is that even though he spent a lot of time working with non-profit organizations and youth development, he still ended up doing what he initially went to college for — working with animals.

Of CANR in general, Carroll said that even though he didn’t end up becoming a vet, he felt that the college helped prepare him by giving him a combination of hands-on experience — working with animals ranging from cows to chickens — and a great classroom atmosphere.

“The thing I love most about CANR is that UD is a big university, so you have the big university feel, but then on the other hand, being in CANR was a more tight-knit and closer community. So I really do think that it’s the best of both worlds. I really enjoyed the faculty and the other students. I had a great experience.”

After UD

After graduating from UD, Carroll went to Penn State where he received a master’s degree in extension education. After a four-year stint in Ohio working with 4-H, Carroll decided to move back East and after working at a few different jobs he was informed about an opening for a development director at the Delaware Humane Association.

“I came here as the development director first in 2006 and I was the development director for four years,” said Carroll. “Then our executive director left and I became the acting director and applied to be the executive director, and so I’ve been the executive director for three years.”

As the executive director, Carroll said that his biggest duties include strategy and fundraising, especially now as DHA prepares to build a new facility. After looking for a new home, DHA decided that the best thing to do was stay where they were and upgrade.

Having raised enough money to do so, the organization plans to break ground on the new facility in the spring, which according to Carroll will be the first new animal shelter built in northern Delaware in a long time.

delhumane6859There are other aspects to Carroll’s job, as well. “We have about 30 employees so there’s a lot of facets — there’s a veterinary facet, there’s a facility, there’s fundraising, there’s animal care,” said Carroll.

As a no kill shelter, something that Carroll said is becoming more common in Delaware, a state which has a strong no-kill movement, DHA can house up to 40 dogs and 100 cats.

Carroll said that they do not like to exceed this number for health reasons. “We’re not huge — some of the other shelters are much bigger than us or they have more animals than they can really house — but we try to be very responsible about housing a number that we can manage for health reasons. If we had more animals than we really should, sickness tends to increase.”

By being a no-kill organization, however, Carroll said that medical costs are high. “That’s a big cost of ours. We’re all about adoption, moving animals forward; we’re not a sanctuary, we don’t want anyone to stay here for a long period of time and the first goal of our mission is to be a temporary shelter.”

As for his favorite part about the job, Carroll said there are many, but he especially loves getting to see all of the new dogs when they first arrive.

“We get dogs in two main ways. We have owner surrenders, which is when someone has to give up a dog for various reasons and we take them in. And the other way is we transfer them from other shelters, mainly from the Kent County SPCA,” explained Carroll.

“We usually bring about 7-8 dogs at a time, and so one of my favorite things is when they get back and we open the van doors and you see all these faces of new dogs. It’s just nice to see them get into our doors and we take good care of them and find them a good home.”

Carroll also said that he enjoys connecting people with a pet and creating a life-long connection that way.

“It isn’t even really in my ‘official’ job description but my favorite part is really linking people to pets. I spend a lot of time with people who are looking for a cat or a dog or they’re referred to me or are my friends or family or people I went to high school with or college or whatever. It has major dividends because it connects people to the organization, and if they have a great experience and they love this dog or this cat they adopted they end up being a supporter and coming to our events and they get it because they’ve experienced it firsthand,” said Carroll.

For more information on DHA, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

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UD alum Westenbroek works as agricultural adviser in Afghanistan

November 7, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Patricia Westenbroek said that when she was young, her mother instilled in her a desire to help others. While her agricultural education at the University of Delaware helped lead her to a role in the Cooperative Extension Service, it is that desire to help that brought her to Afghanistan, working as an agricultural adviser for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service.

Westenbroek — a UD alumna who graduated in 1997 with a bachelor of science degree in animal science with a pre-veterinary concentration and minors in agricultural economics and chemistry and went on to earn a master’s degree in agricultural development at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland — said that her job entails working with extension specialists in the Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (DAIL). She said that she works on “a variety of agriculture projects, including animal husbandry, animal nutrition, beekeeping, and planting perennial trees at the district and provincial level.”

DAIL works closely with United States and coalition forces, the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and local organizations as a team to “strengthen the capacity of the Afghan government, improve farm management and rebuild markets,” said Westenbroek.

One part of her job that she finds especially enjoyable is working with the female extension agents employed by DAIL in the province. “In them is so much promise,” said Westenbroek. “Public roles for women have been limited in Afghanistan and that has been changing. These women take the risk to help their people improve their lives by providing social, agricultural and education services.”

While some might have reservations about moving to Afghanistan, Westenbroek said that the decision for her was fairly easy. “I’ve wanted to be able to do this type of work for a long time,” said Westenbroek. “It was natural to say yes to an opportunity to help farmers and extension agents.”

Although she does admit that there was initially a bit of trepidation about going to Afghanistan, Westenbroek said, “The opportunity to work with Afghans as they rebuild their country outweighed my concerns.”

Though her day-to-day routine is varied — one day she may be out on a mission with military colleagues to meet villagers while the next she may be meeting with government officials or extension agent — she always has a daily Dari lesson to help her learn the local language.

The other thing that remains constant is what she enjoys most about her job: the people.

Westenbroek said that she meets all sorts of people ranging from “DAIL representatives who truly want what is best for their province or district to help the farmers to make positive changes; a young boy who is extremely proud of his goats because they are healthy; a little girl excited to see two women with the military team walking with me around the village and telling me about her day at school; the kindness of everyone as I learn Dari — teaching and laughing with me.

“I have been overwhelmed by the warm welcome from a young Afghan woman who embraced me with tears of joy, thanking me and all Americans for coming to Afghanistan to help her country.”

Article by Adam Thomas

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