Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center

Photo: Duck
Researchers have been rounding up ducks on campus as part of a study, directed by Walter Boyce, WHC co-director. The researchers are examining the mallards' health and attaching identification bands as part of the long-term study of waterfowl and ecosystem health in the Pacific Flyway.

Arboretum Duck Project

Avian Flu

With over $4M in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded 2007–2012, the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center is part of the NIH’s network of surveillance centers. Under the leadership of Dr. Walter Boyce and working in partnership with Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and other institutions, our goal is to understand the ecological and virological factors that drive the transmission and emergence of avian influenza viruses within and across species. Our broad geographic focus is the Pacific Rim, a coherent geographical region that encompasses and intersects migratory flyways in both Eurasia and North America, but our primary focus is on wild birds and mammals in California. Researchers from the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center and Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation Biology have been catching and examining ducks in the UC Davis Arboretum as part of a long-term study of waterfowl and ecosystem health. For more information on the Arboretum Duck Project, please click here.

The research, funded largely by the National Institutes of Health, is intended to help human and wildlife health specialists better understand the ecology and flow of avian influenza viruses in urban ecosystems. Walter Boyce, co-director of the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, leads the study. He is an expert on animal pathogens, particularly those carried by wildlife that can cause diseases in domestic animals and people.

CEIRS Center

The Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center is part of the Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS), which falls under the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an arm of the National Institutes of Health. 

In the last ten years, avian influenza viruses have been increasingly recognized as a threat to the health of wildlife, domestic animals, and people. In particular, the emergence of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain in Asia, Europe and Africa has sparked real concern. Although H5N1 has not been found in North America, researchers are finding that many other influenza viruses are present in waterfowl in wildland and urban settings.

Experts agree that more needs to be learned about highly pathogenic H5N1 and all of the other avian influenza viruses that occur in wild birds and mammals. Avian influenza viruses have been found in ducks at the Arboretum, but there is no evidence that these viruses pose a significant threat. However, the Arboretum ecosystem and nearby wildlife refuges offer a unique opportunity for learning about the ecology of these viruses and their hosts.  The Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center will conduct surveillance and research on influenza viruses within the Pacific Flyway at least through 2012.  

For more information, see the following sites devoted to Avian Flu:


World Health Organization (WHO)

National Wildlife Health Center (USGS-NWHC)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

California Department of Health Services (DHS)

Pandemic Flu.gov (Avian Flu.gov)