The Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine hosts a Zoo, Wildlife, and Exotics (ZWE) conference every other spring. Organized by students, it features a variety of topics including exotic animal emergency medicine, wildlife diseases, aquatic and zoo animal medicine, and exotic animal handling.

This year the event included a wildlife necropsy wet lab, a clinical pathology case studies lab, a capture and immobilization lab, and an avian phlebotomy lab. The participants came from all over the northwest, and all aspects of veterinary medicine, including wildlife enthusiasts and pre-veterinary undergraduates, to veterinary technicians, veterinarians and researchers.

The event was packed full of learning experiences that are not available elsewhere. “I learned how to shoot a blow dart at a fake elephant butt, and I learned that beavers have orange teeth because of a high iron content (which makes them stronger),” says Eilea Delgadillo (Class of 2021). “I learned that giraffes aren’t very smart, and that their skin is stretched so tightly over their legs that keeping a sutured wound closed for more than a few days is nearly impossible.”

Wildlife dissections were supervised by Professor Dr. Ron Bildfell in the necropsy room of the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. “We had the wonderful opportunity to necropsy two California Sea Lions, a stellar sea lion, a harbor seal, and elephant seal pup, a dolphin, a river otter, a cougar, a racoon, and a bobcat,” says student Lesley Cohen (Class of 2021). “We also had the opportunity to participate in sample collection for the Marine Mammal Stranding Network.”

It takes a big team and many hours of work to create a symposium rich in relevant content. The ZWE club includes student officers Kait Esson (co-president), Eilea Delgadillo (co-president), Lesley Cohen (secretary), Laura Eldridge (treasurer), and Robyn Cates (historian). “The officers who hosted the symposium learned valuable skills throughout the planning process and facilitation of the event,” says Cohen. “In addition to gaining leadership experience, they participated in financial analysis, risk analysis, graphic design, sponsorship seeking, communication with professionals in the field, scheduling, hospitality, and much more.”

Student volunteers pitched in and helped as well, including Katherine Onofryton, Marci Witczak, Sabrina Dean, McKinley Smith, Linda Yang and Genny Cobarrubias. “This event would not have been possible without the help of our volunteers, sponsors, guest lecturers, and faculty members,” says Cohen. “Thank you!”