By Beate Hillmann, SLU
Reflections and aims
Back at the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Veterinary Public Health (BVF)/SLU, I am content with the support we have given the Darwin Station concerning the lab facilities. During the time I worked at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS), I got even more knowledge about their important work for the Galapagos Islands, a Human World Heritage site since 1978.
Many factors are threatening the health of marine wildlife populations in the Galapagos, including the rapidly expanding human population, increasing tourism industry (over 170000 tourists each year), the increase in contamination and in maritime traffic, and on top of that also climate changes as well as other changes in ecosystems.
An important project for the Galapagos Islands is the project lead by the wildlife veterinary surgeon Carolina Garcia at the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF). She has established, in cooperation with the Galapagos National Park, a baseline for a long-term surveillance and monitoring program to evaluate the health status and threats to some of the most emblematic marine species in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
Carolina Garcia mainly works with passive health surveillance, collecting data from all the individuals found sick, injured or dead throughout the archipelago, performing complete necropsies on dead specimens and clinical examinations of live specimens.
Only macroscopic examinations have been possible due to lack of funds to analyse the samples in a specialized pathology laboratory. Since the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) donated the histology equipment in 2011, the Darwin Station got the possibility to prepare histological cuts.
Veterinary surgeon Carolina Garcia still needs a specialist to analyse the slides in order to better understand the causes of death and the possible link to wildlife diseases or even zoonotic diseases (that is, infectious diseases that are transmitted between species from animals to humans or from humans to other animals).
My aim is to support her work with my experience in histology lab techniques so that she can apply for more funds to make it possible for the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) to cooperate with a veterinarian pathologist.
I have just spent my holidays, from the middle of February to the end of Mars, working as a volunteer at the Darwin Station, using the histology lab, to support Carolinas project. As a result I have helped her to prepare 65 samples, taken from marine animals with unknown cause of death (see pictures), by embedding them in paraffin, cutting them with the microtome and colouring them. Now the samples are ready for the transport to a veterinary pathologist for diagnostics.
My/our aim at the BVF department is/are to cooperate with the CDF, the Galapagos National Park and the Biosecurity (before Agrocalidad), to start an exchange of scientists and to promote cooperation related to the environmental monitoring and assessment (EMA) program ”Non-Toxic Environment” at SLU (coordinated by Pia Larsson).
Greetings from Galapagos in a very humid and hot season!