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Nordic Zoo, Wildlife and Conservation Medicine

  • Photo: 
    Shutterstock, Max Daniel Padt

NOVA Master's course of 6 ECTS, organised by John Debenham, Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
Dates and location: 7-18 August 2017 in Tangen, Norway.

The NOVA intensive MSc course on Nordic Zoo, Wildlife and Conservation Medicine (CM) is a collaboration between the Nordic veterinary educations. It aims at introducing students to the skills and knowledge required of veterinarians and other relevant natural and health science professions in order to meet challenges of the many infectious diseases that are transmitted between wildlife species and domestic animals and humans, and that, in many cases, have wildlife species as the reservoir.
The on-site part of the courses will be held in a different Nordic country each year. In 2017, it is set in Tangen, Norway.

Course Content
The course comprises 4-5 weeks of full time study divided into 2 modules: The preparatory e-learning module is spread over June-July. This involves an introduction and subsequent grouping of students in 4 “ecosystem groups”: Arctic, Boreal, Coastal and Marine. This is followed by the main e-learning content: 4 sessions on Conservation Medicine, Infectious disease ecology, wildlife pathology and anaesthesia / immobilisation. Students work both individually and in their eco-group with: scientific literature, on-line discussions and tests, written group assignments and production of YouTube-videos presenting their respective ecosystem and the related conservation medicine challenges.
The on-site module runs in the beginning of August at Tangen Zoo, Norway. It runs over 2 weeks (incl. arrival and departure).

Students work alone and in groups producing portfolios comprising of study notes, written assignments, video documentations of fieldwork and reflections on learning outcomes

This advanced course will provide a framework in which to examine the connections between the condition of the planet and the health of all species with a focus on the challenges within the Nordic ecosystems. It will challenge students in the ecological sciences, health sciences and the natural sciences to think about new, collaborative ways to address ecological health. Understanding infectious and non-infectious diseases, pathogens, processes, impacts, and how to maintain healthy populations of species—and the ecosystem services the species provide—is the key to conservation.

Specifically, the following topics will be addressed through lectures, practical exercises, field assignments and excursions:

  • Presentation of student produced YouTube videos and discussion of the learning outcomes from the on-line course module
  • Introduction to conservation medicine, including definition of wildlife, animal welfare, wildlife diseases, threats to wildlife etc.
  • Ecosystem health, including threatened species, interfaces between wildlife, human and environmental health, climate changes, environmental (artic) toxicology and antibiotic resistance
  • Zoonosis, infectious diseases and disease surveillance in wildlife
  • Wildlife handling, capturing and immobilization
  • Wildlife pathology
  • Conclusion of course including students' presentations of their learning outcomes and assessment

Evaluation Elements
Students will be evaluated by their assignments, group work, group presentations and research proposal. This will be pass / fail.

Learning Outcomes

  • Define CM in relation to human, animal and environmental health
  • Identify diseases in Nordic wildlife and animal species important in Nordic CM
  • Explain how a CM approach can be applied in a range of practical situations, e.g. handling of environmental problems with toxics and antibiotics/ anthelmintics
  • Understand the unique challanges of wildlife immobilisation and how this can be used in disease investigations
  • Understand the different steps in designing a research proposal
  • Have a basic knowledge of the major zoonotic diseases in wildlife
  • Understand how ecotoxicology is impacting wild animals in the Artic


  • Perform simple field necropsy and tissue sampling for wildlife diagnostics and surveillance
  • Write protocols and prepare for working with wildlife, including human safety, laws and regulations
  • Organize basic trapping/immobilization, including animal handling, anaesthesia, drug delivery and monitoring
  • Communicate efficiently both orally, in writing and by video using ICT with an international group of colleagues (fellow students) in order to solve complex problems

Estimated Workload

  • On-line preparatory course over 2 months (approximately 2,5 ECTS study load):
    Estimated 40 hours directed e-learning (individual & group assignments) and 35 hours independent work (reading, information search)
  • On-site course, 11 days (approximately 3,5 ECTS)
    At the present course, students have had a total of - planned sessions:
    33 lectures (hours)
    28 hours group work including presentations of assignments
    11 hours of plan panel discussions
    18 hours of practical exercises (necropsy, trapping, shooting with immobilisation darts)
    18 hours of excursions
    3.5 hours of films plus discussions
    In total: 111.5 hours of planned sessions.

Prerequisite Knowledge
We require a BSc degree in veterinary medicine, biology, animal science or medicine (3 years of education) or equivalent. The teaching is based on the knowledge of general pathology and pharmacology of a veterinary bachelor, however the on – line pre-course makes it possible for Master’s students within Biology and Animal Science to catch up with the course to some extent.

Admission for a NOVA course is handled locally by the course leader/ the NOVA member institution organising the course. Please see the links in the margin for more information.

Apply here

Published 20. January 2017 - 16:11 - Updated 3. April 2018 - 16:06

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Postal address:
Ingrid Aksnes Hjetland
NOVA Secretariat
Norwegian University of Life Sciences
PO BOX 5003
NO-1432 Aas