International Programs

Laura Schwartz

Sabana Grande, Nicaragua

This past summer I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Nicaragua. I was lucky enough to be involved in several projects taking place there including working with the SOH club Nicaragua team as well as participate in research with a UC Davis faculty member.

My first week was spent in the rural community of Sabana Grande with the Students for One Health club Nicaragua project. This project aims to provide sustainable solutions to community-identified health problems within a developing nation.  The SOH team put on two educational workshops and continued fleshing out a needs assessment through surveys and data collection. By uniting community human and animal health workers, we hope to create a health initiative and provide a model for more efficient and cohesive health approach in rural communities. Staying with a homestay family and living with limited amenities was a great exercise in pushing my comfort level and language skills.

For the second week of my trip, a fellow SOH-er (class of 2015 James Liu) and I had planned to spend time shadowing and consulting scientists of the non-governmental organization, Paso Pacifico. Paso Pacifico works toward ecosystem conservation using science and cooperation with local communities. They run programs in several areas of ecosystem management and scientific progress. These programs include efforts to mitigate climate change, rebuild forests, conserve coastal and marine ecosystems, strengthen communities, and save wildlife. Shadowing and helping with two research projects was a very new experience for me, even coming from an academic background in ecology! We joined several night hikes and participated in active data collection on frogs and fish from Cardenas, Nicaragua. Additionally, we had the chance to spend a night with the sea turtle protection team, who works to alleviate egg poaching by providing alternative incentives. This week provided insight into what ecological fieldwork looks like, and some incredible wildlife spotting!

From Cardenas, James and I continued on to spend two weeks with Dr. Christine Fiorello of the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, working on a collaborative research project. Our goal was to provide pilot data to assess baseline wellness, and presence of infectious disease among the domestic dogs within three indigenous communities of an isolated region of northern Nicaragua. With Dr. Fiorello’s mentorship we collected physical exam data, ectoparasites, and blood, urine, and fecal samples from 78 dogs. This was a truly unique experience. I not only gained tremendous clinical experience, but also learned what life looks like in rural and underserved communities of Nicaragua, where electricity and running water are the exception, the seasons dominate, and subsistence farming represents the majority of income. I could not have received a more valuable experience in exercising patience, adaptability, and gaining perspective.

I am sincerely grateful to International Programs for helping make this unforgettable summer a reality for me!

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