Tanner Talan - Tailand
This summer, I was given the chance to spend eight weeks experiencing a career as a veterinarian in research in Thailand. I had the opportunity to work with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Kasetsart University, Kamphang Saen campus studying elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus 1 (EEHV1) and performing treatments with the exotic veterinarians. My research project aimed to analyze the genetic diversity of EEHV1 in six fatal cases from elephants from Thailand. Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus 1 is an acute hemorrhagic disease affecting young elephants in both captive and wild populations. Fatal cases have been reported internationally with a nearly 70% mortality rate in Thailand alone.
Elephants are deeply integrated into the Thai culture and contribute a significant amount to the economy of Thailand. They serve an unparalleled part in the tourism and logging industries as well as assist their mahouts (elephant caretakers) in subsistence farming. More importantly, the people of Thailand share a deep reverence for these amazing creature and care for them with undying loyalty. Through analyzing hypervariable regions of the EEHV1 genome, we hoped to provide information to help develop a deeper understanding of the virus for future treatments. We analyzed the virus by isolating the virus from blood and tissue samples from six fatal cases that occurred in Thailand. We then isolated and sequenced six hypervariable loci from each sample to be compared through phylogenetic analysis to themselves and international samples from prior studies. From the phylogenetic trees we constructed, we were then able to compare and subtype each sample loci in search of patterns of evolution based on geographic origin.
Aside from research, my time was taken up by helping at the university and exploring the rich Thai culture and beautiful tropical environment. At the university, I was able to help do treatments on tigers and elephants, develop an EEHV monitoring station at a local zoo, and participate in an Advance Research Course for international students. I learned so much about everyone’s cultures and got to help learn about some of the amazing research and conservation projects in Thailand. I also got to explore the areas around central Thailand and spend a few days in Chiang Mai in the north. From biking around the pagodas in Ayutthaya to traversing Salak Phra Wildlife Sanctuary with the rangers, I got to experience the Thai culture in a way I never would have and develop a deeper understanding of the commitment the Thai people have to their home and the environment surrounding it. I hope I was able to have a positive impact on the students and doctors I got to work with in Thailand as well as increase awareness for EEHV with my project.