Desert tortoise at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in Nevada. Photo: Matt Kinney
They may not be able to run very fast, but that doesn’t mean desert tortoises are easy subjects for field work as zoological resident Matt Kinney discovered. Try finding 100 of these burrow-loving reptiles among 222 acres of desert. But that’s what Kinney did as part of his residency at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine to implement a research project to study the use of tulathromycin, an antibiotic, in Gopherus agassizii.
In the second year of his zoological residency, Kinney is located at the San Diego Zoo whose veterinarians serve as satellite vets for the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center (DTCC), located about 15 miles south of the Las Vegas trip. The 222-acre facility serves as a primary repository for stray and injured animals, tortoises removed from habitat undergoing development, and so called ‘pet’ tortoises. As many as 1,000 tortoises enter this facility annually where they are given a secure habitat to be cared for, treated, bred, studied, marked and prepared for release back to the wild. Conservation of this threatened species has become progressively more important as environmental changes have decreased the Mojave Desert population by an estimated 90 percent over the past 30 years.
Through collaboration between the school, San Diego Zoo Global and the DTCC, Kinney was able to study 101 adult tortoises at the center to evaluate the clinical safety of tulathromycin injections as well as measure how long the antibiotic stayed in the blood stream. His results indicate that tulathromycin may prove to be clinically useful for treating upper respiratory tract infections in this species—a disease believed to contribute to the desert tortoise’s rapid decline.
"The zoological medicine residency program at UC Davis provides a valuable platform for research cooperation between basic scientists, conservationists, and zoo veterinarians,” said Matt Kinney, who received his DVM in 2010 from University of Wisconsin-Madison. “This project brought together researchers from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Sacramento Zoo, San Diego Zoo Global, and the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in an effort to better understand treatment options for diseases in desert tortoises.”
Kinney, along with more than two dozen other residents, presented his research findings at the 34th Annual House Officer Seminar Day in March, now named after Gerald V. Ling, an alum and faculty member of the school whose vision inspired the day-long seminar. Every year, the house officers (residents, fellows and interns) at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital are encouraged to present their research findings to their peers and faculty. Many residents ultimately publish their results in peer-reviewed journals and present findings at national scientific meetings.
Some of this year’s topics included: feline lymphoma treatments, equine anesthesia and recovery, feline behavior, variations on hemodialysis platforms, a retrospective study of wild and captive exotic birds, pain management during branding and castration of beef calves, and equine stem cell research.
Several presentations were singled out for special recognition. A faculty committee reviewed the presentations according to clarity, style, scientific merit, use of audiovisual aids, timing and how well the project's conclusions followed from the data.
Matt Kinney received an award for Outstanding Avian, Exotics, Lab Animal or Poultry Research Study and Presentation.
In Large Animal Medicine, Gema Vidal, Resident III in Livestock Reproduction and Herd Health, was recognized for a study that found pain medication prevented decreased weight gain in beef calves after castration and branding in “Comparison of meloxicam and flunixin meglumine for pain management during branding and castration.”
Receiving the Christopher Smith Equine Surgery Research Award was Tatiana Ferreira, Resident III in Anesthesia, who presented the study, "Effects of ketamine, propofol, and thiopental on intraocular pressure and anesthetic induction and recovery quality in horses."
Three awards recognized achievement in Small Animal Medicine:
Katherine Hansen , Resident II in Radiation Oncology, presented "Validation of an indexed radiotherapy head positioning device for use in dogs."
Jonathan Stockman , Resident II in Clinical Nutrition, earned recognition for "Evaluation of published recipes for home-prepared canine maintenance diets."
The Gerald V. Ling Award, recognizing research in small animal medicine, went to Daniel Dugger, Resident III, Small Animal Emergency and Critical Care, who studied "Plasma homocysteine after methionine challenge in cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy."
About the School of Veterinary Medicine Residencies
Residencies are post-doctoral clinical programs that prepare veterinarians to become eligible for certification in a chosen veterinary discipline. The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, through its teaching hospital, runs what is believed to be the largest and most diverse specialty residency program in the nation, with more than 25 veterinary disciplines represented and 100 veterinarians in residency positions at any one time.
All veterinarians accepted into the program have veterinary practice experience. With some exceptions, residents are selected through a competitive match system. They spend from two to five years in intensive training in such specialties as food animal production medicine, small animal surgery, imaging, ophthalmology, cardiology, equine medicine, pathology, oncology, nutrition and other fields that prepare residents for specialty practice or academic careers.
Residents treat patients and instruct veterinary students in the real-world skills of veterinary practice. Most residents practice at clinics in the teaching hospital; some pursue training at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center, the Sacramento Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory and other off-site facilities.
Trina Wood, SVM communications officer, 530-752-5257; firstname.lastname@example.org