Amanda Garrick - Australia
Summer In Sydney at The Avian, Reptile, and Exotic Pet Hospital
This summer I had the opportunity to travel to New South Wales, Australia and work at Sydney University’s Avian, Reptile, and Exotic Pet Hospital under the mentorship of Dr. Lorenzo Crosta. I chose Australia for its unique wildlife and Dr. Crosta for his diverse background in wildlife and exotics and his experience as a surgeon and clinician for a wide range of species. Throughout his career, Dr. Crosta has worked in clinical medicine while being the official veterinarian for two species recovery programs and consulting for numerous others. I am personally interested in both clinical medicine and conservation, so working with someone who has managed to incorporate both of these aspects into a very successful career was eye-opening.
While abroad, I also had the opportunity to work remotely on a feline research project based in Sri Lanka. I collaborated with Dr. Ruwini Rupasinghe, a Sri Lankan student based at UC Davis, to help collect behavior data from videos of geriatric cats. This project analyzed the behavior of these cats when offered toys filled with the Acalypha indica plant- a catnip-like herb from the region. The information gathered from this study will be applied to further olfactory genetic research and used to improve the lives of geriatric cats in Sri Lanka and here at home. Throughout this project, I practiced my skills of data collection, helped to write IACUC protocols, and reinforced my understanding of the scientific method and study design.
During my time at the AREPH, I assisted doctors and senior vet students with everything from hourly feedings for a baby rainbow lorikeet that had fallen from its nest to an ultrasound on a mother koala. I learned about emergency wildlife care and applied my first two years of vet school learning to new species. I helped to interpret diagnostic tests and set up protocols for supportive care, anesthesia, and discharge to wildlife rehabbers. Among the veterinarians at AREPH was a skilled ultrasonographer and a clinical pathologist, so I had the opportunity to approach each case from multiple diagnostic angles. I also learned about the management and conservation efforts being applied to the different birds, mammals, and reptiles in New South Wales and Australia as a whole. Wildlife work is always a bit of a gamble since you never know what will come in; I was very lucky this summer to have the opportunity to work with nearly every species of native mammal as well as a huge variety of birds and reptiles.
In addition to seeing wildlife cases, the Avian, Reptile, and Exotic Pet Hospital is a busy, five doctor practice for exotic pets. Over the course of the summer, I participated in daily appointments and procedures from rabbit dentals to guinea pig ear swabs to nail trims on macaws. Dr. Crosta and the other doctors were enthusiastic to teach and helped us problem solve as students.
From my first day in the country, University staff, students, and the local Australians I met in my travels were incredibly warm and welcoming. Nearly everyone I met wanted to give suggestions for landmarks to visit, things to eat, and places to stay. I enjoyed living in the halls with the Sydney vet students learning about their backgrounds and studies. Many of the students had traveled from other countries to Sydney, as had doctors at the AREPH, and I loved learning about their cultures and paths to the veterinary field.
My international experience this summer exceeded my expectations. I learned so much about medicine, wildlife health, and different cultural and professional perspectives. I was exposed to species I had never worked with before and became much more confident in my ability to apply the skills I already had. I was very lucky to have multiple international mentors and gain exposure to the very unique clinical medicine in Australia as well as feline research and behavioral observation. I am very excited to return to vet school with the skills and experiences I have gained over the course of this summer to my next year and my career moving forward.