Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center

Photo: Brett Smith removes samples from -80°C freezer
Brett Smith removes samples from -80°C freezer

Marine Ecosystem Health Diagnostic and Surveillance Laboratory

Welcome to the UC Davis Marine Ecosystem Health Diagnostic and Surveillance Laboratory 

Mission Statement and Philosophy 

We provide timely, accurate diagnostic services to assess health and the impact of disease on marine wildlife and to identify the role of various pathogens in contributing to wildlife losses. We work with the academic and scientific community to perform high quality marine wildlife research, and partner with state, federal, profit and not for profit organizations to accomplish this goal. We disseminate information to promote science-based decisions affecting living marine resources and their habitat. 


  • Provide diagnostic testing and support to members of the marine mammal health and stranding network, wildlife biologists, marine animal scientists, marine animal clinicians 
  • Monitor health and detect and investigate health problems in marine animals and their ecosystems 
  • Transfer of technologies from other institutions to facilitate continued accessibility of developed diagnostics Develop and optimize new methodologies for detecting and tracking diseases 
  • Monitor disease and health for surveillance of marine animals and of their environment 
  • Recognition and dissemination of new knowledge that benefit marine animals, people and their environment 

Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Network 

We will form partnerships to investigate emerging and endemic diseases in stranded marine mammals in order to protect and conserve the species and their habitat. We will strive to meet or exceed client expectations especially related to quality and service. We will develop innovative approaches, and communicate new knowledge of trends in marine animal health. We will participate in infectious disease and zoonotic pathogen surveillance programs and provide data for compilation into central databases when appropriate.

Zoos and Aquaria 

We will provide accurate and timely diagnostic services for health monitoring and disease surveillance of captive marine mammals. We will maintain the confidentiality of client information. 

State and Federal Agencies 

We will assist state and federal agencies by providing accurate and timely services efficiently and in a fiscally responsible manner to monitor free-ranging marine animal health and investigate mortality events and new and emerging diseases to assist management needs.

Academic and Scientific Community 

As a UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine program, we develop and maintain open, collaborative, relationships with the academic and scientific communities. We foster mutually beneficial and productive research and training efforts. Research is an important component of our mission as associated faculty and staff develop new and improved diagnostic tests and initiate investigative projects to address emerging diseases, disease identification and disease epidemiology. We actively participate in forums to exchange information and knowledge that benefits marine animal health, contribute to the education of professional veterinary medical, graduate, undergraduate, and post-doctoral students and provide outreach to the scientific community and the public. 

Data Integrity 

We maintain confidentiality of client information and client results, and will not utilize data for scientific manuscripts or presentations without collaboration and permission of submitter. Data are maintained in a database and may be utilized for analyses to facilitate disease surveillance purposes by the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Center for Marine Animal Health. 

Agreements to investigate and collectively publish scientific data to facilitate correct interpretation of results and protect both submitter investment in data and faculty investment in new research diagnostics will be established as needed. The MEHDS Laboratory has no requirement for co-authorship; however if the intellectual input exceeds the regular service function of the lab, co-authorship may be requested. When special projects require validation of new protocols and development of new assays, co-authorship may be required. All manuscripts prepared using data generated through the MEHDS should include consultation with all involved parties to ensure correct interpretation of the results and appropriate acknowledgements and affiliations. 

Guidelines for Sample Submission: 

Fees: Fees for services constitute the chief source of funds for the purchase of supplies and materials that are essential for the operation of the laboratory. Fees are kept low by additional financial support to the laboratory through contracts and grants. Sample submissions: All samples must be submitted with a complete sample submission form. Missing information will cause a delay in the processing of your samples, especially sample type, species, pertinent sample collection information and account information. 

Results: Results will be provided with test interpretation after each sample or batch has been processed and analyzed. Your email address should be included on the sample submission form for timely return of your results. 

Turn-around time: Turn-around for most existing tests is 2 weeks or less. Identification of novel disease agents or development of new assays may require a longer turn-around time. 

Invoicing: Each sample batch will be invoiced individually based on the account information provided with the submitted samples upon the return of the results. The account and contact information provided on the sample submission form will be used for invoicing.