National Veterinary Scholars Symposium – Where Aspiring Veterinary Scientists Present Their Research

This weekend I had the privilege of attending the National Veterinary Scholars Symposium (NVSS), sponsored by Merial & NIH, in Athens, Georgia (home of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine).

NVSS is dedicated to promoting and honoring veterinary students involved in research. Students attending the symposium have the opportunity to attend lectures and presentations by leading researchers throughout the country, present their research at poster sessions and mingle with other students and faculty to discover what other fascinating research is being done across the nation.

While much of the research that people present at this conference is laboratory based, my research is not. My research examines the differences in behavioral expression in cats housed in two different cage types in an animal shelter. Essentially I videotape cats using a surveillance system for the first 24-72 hours of stay at an animal shelter and then watch the video and qualitatively code the cats behavior along with time of onset and duration. It’s fascinating yet time-consuming work, and I may be the only person who has ever watched cats for such lengthy periods of time. (Realize, the software I have does not allow fast-forward, so there’s no speeding up this task!) Believe it or not, but no one has done research like this before — ever! We even consulted with the behavior department at UC Davis regarding this project and they indicated that they don’t do research as we are doing because it requires too much data storage for all the video footage. It’s true — my project requires a LOT of digital storage space (approximately 1 GB of space per hour of video!). Nevertheless, this project is immensely important as it will help us make recommendations to animal shelters, veterinary practices, catteries, etc. as to what type of housing to use so as to maximize animal comfort and minimize stress so as to decrease the risk for infection. What does that mean — fewer sick cats! A huge positive in the eyes of shelters and veterinary practices!

My research is sponsored by the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis under a STAR Fellowship that I applied to earlier this year under the direction of Dr. Kate Hurley and Dr. Denae Wagner of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at UC Davis and in collaboration with the Yolo County Animal Shelter). The Morris Animal Foundation is also a contributor to this research as they are a huge supporter of the UC Davis Shelter Medicine Program’s research. A huge thanks to everyone who has been involved in my research or helped make it possible! I genuinely appreciate your support (as do all of the kitties)!