The Center for Conservation Medicine: A New Consortium to Address Marine Ecosystem Health and Monitoring
IAAAM 1999
Alonso Aguirre; Gary Tabor
Center for Conservation Medicine, Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine
North Grafton, MA, USA


The Center for Conservation Medicine (CCM) was established to develop educational and field conservation activities that explore the relationship among ecosystem health, animal health and human health as they relate to conserving the biosphere. Through CCM, veterinarians, physicians, wildlife ecologists and other conservation professionals are working together to provide an ecological context to health management in relation to many complex environmental issues facing the world today. Newly established in 1997, the CCM is a collaboration between Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine (Tufts), Wildlife Preservation Trust International and Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment. As an integral part of the Pacific Marine Ecosystem Health program, the CCM plans to develop a monitoring program of key sentinel species as indicators of marine health. The goal of the CCM is to pool these monitoring efforts into an integrated ecosystem health surveillance initiative. Sea turtles and marine mammals are being targeted for this initiative. More specifically, this effort will examine the systemic health threats to these species as it relates to marine environmental health. Sea turtles, especially green turtles, are being threatened by an epidemic of fibropapillomatosis. These debilitating tumors are suspected of having a viral etiology. Populations of turtles exposed to pollution have been shown to have an increased risk of infection. In close collaboration with National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), CCM plans to conduct monitoring efforts in selected sites in the Pacific--the Hawaiian Islands, Mexico and Costa Rica. The CCM will focus on a few marine mammal populations, most particularly Hawaiian monk seals. As demonstrated by intensive serologic surveys on a wide number of marine mammal species, it is evident that many diseases known to affect terrestrial species for decades or centuries are now recently being identified in marine ecosystems. Species and disease interactions are resulting in the appearance of mass mortalities and new reservoir hosts in new geographic areas. Examples of these diseases in marine ecosystems include several strains of morbillivirus and Brucella spp. Protocols for serum and tissue banking and development of sound epidemiologic studies are underway. Data regarding morbillivirus and Brucella spp. need to be analyzed to provide for example: epidemiological trends, morbidity/mortality curves, geographic distribution and prevalence/incidence information. In addition, herpesvirus epidemics and morbillivirus evidence are occurring affecting pinnipeds in the Pacific coast of the U.S. This cooperative initiative has been proposed to systematically address these disease concerns in one of the richest ecosystems of the world.

Speaker Information
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A. Alonso Aguirre, DVM, MS, PhD
Wildlife Preservation Trust International and
Center for Conservation Medicine
Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine
North Grafton, MA, USA

Gary Tabor
Center for Conservation Medicine, Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine
North Grafton, MA, USA

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