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Welcome to the Carapace Chronicles!
My name is Brittany Way and I just finished up my first year at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. This summer, a generous grant from the Morris Animal Foundation’s Veterinary Scholars Program and the support of my advisor Dr. Matt Allender, has allowed me to travel to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to study the health of a population of Eastern Box Turtles. This blog is intended to give you an insight into my work this summer and also into the importance of veterinary medicine in the conservation of species.
Reptiles, such as the Eastern Box Turtles, are extremely susceptible to environmental disturbance. Habitat fragmentation and destruction can lead to environmental stress that can weaken their immune systems. As part of my study I will be collecting blood from each of the turtles we find to try and get a feel for the health of not only the individual turtles but also the health of the entire population.
In further posts, I will describe the different places blood is drawn and what cells we look for the in the blood. Above, I am drawing blood from the subcarapacial sinus of this box turtle.
I will also be performing a physical exam on these turtles, looking for signs of disease such as watery eyes or diarrhea. I will also be looking for any external parasites such as ticks and collecting them for further analysis. Lastly, in the field I will be collecting oral swabs for further analyses to be run to determine if these turtles are infected with viruses that can prove to be detrimental to an entire population, such as Ranavirus.
Once in the lab, I will use the blood to determine a White Blood Cell Count, the percentages of different blood cells found in a blood sample (Complete Blood Count), plasma biochemistries (such as Sodium and Potassium), the packed cell volume, and Total solids present in the blood. These values can all be used as an indicator of the health of the turtles.
Stay tuned for more information on my summer research project!
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