Sabana Grande, Nicaragua
This past summer I went to Nicaragua to help with creating a One Health Initiative for UC Davis in Sabana Grande. In Sabana Grande, we continued to build upon on work from the previous summer. My goal was to help survey the residents to identify the major environmental concerns of the public and how to help curb deforestation for firewood and protect wildlife. It was very insightful as to how to work more on the policy side of things, and see where other people and cultures place value. There, people are educated enough to understand the need to protect the environment, but are unable to help due to economic restraint. Our proposed course of action is to put them in touch with forest ecology and business students because they do have a reforestation model in place in the community, but they need capital to create sustainable farming of shade grown coffee, fruit and vegetables. This, they believe, will create jobs and encourage others to make similar sustainable farming efforts. This trip was overseen by Dr. Pat Conrad, who also traveled with us.
After that trip however, I organized a week for myself and second year student, Laura Schwartz, to shadow with the NGO Paso Pacifico. Paso Pacifico is a group of US and international researchers that do forest and animal conservation along the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. I was able to join them for stream survey of reptiles and amphibians, sample collection of amphibians for Chytrid fungus and DNA (swabs and toe clippings), sea turtle tracking and nest monitoring, and physical examination of rescued endangered Spider monkeys.
After that, I collaborated with Dr. Christine Fiorello of the One Health Institute to do a research project on hunting dogs in the remote tropical rainforest. We spent 2 weeks studying the dogs of indigenous tribes from three villages in the Bosawas region in Northeastern Nicaragua. Living in hammocks amid a haze of mosquitos, we conducted physical exams on 76 dogs and took samples of blood, urine, and feces to quantify a baseline of disease prevalence and health in the population. Dr. Fiorello is collaborating with an anthropologist to identify how improving the health of hunting dogs through education can help improve the quality of life for the indigenous people via zoonotic disease, increased hunting ability, and longer lifespans. It was a great opportunity for me, as a former field ecologist, to gain more clinical skills and animal handling techniques. I was able to practice venipuncture, cystocentesis, restraint (of VERY fractious dogs), as well as practice my Spanish and client interaction. I also conducted surveys of dog owners as to the health of their dogs, hunting practices, bushmeat consumption, and wildlife decline. We were responsible for helping design the study under Dr. Fiorello's guidance, which she hopes to help create opportunities to expose us to research design and to publish while in veterinary school.