aquatic animal health – College of Veterinary Medicine UNIVERSITY of FLORIDA Thu, 08 Dec 2016 00:17:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Open House 2016 Tue, 19 Jan 2016 21:26:40 +0000 Mark your calendar now!


Come one, come all to the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s Annual Open House!


  • When: Saturday, April 9, 2016, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Where: University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine located at 2015 SW 16th Ave. in Gainesville.
  • Who: The college and our veterinary students work together to put on this wonderful, fun and educational event each year for the community.
  • What: Our Open House is an opportunity to learn more about the veterinary profession and what our Small and Large Animal Hospitals have to offer, engage in learning opportunities, see cool stuff and even adopt an animal from a local shelter. Come learn more about us! What a great way to spend a Saturday! And it’s all free!

We’ll have:40th-Anniversary-logo

  • Tours of the UF Large and Small Animal Hospitals (ongoing)
  • How to Get Into Veterinary School/Pre-Vet Advising Sessions
  • Talks and Educational Demonstrations will highlight various techniques used by UF veterinarians to treat animals for a variety of health problems (ongoing)
  • Lameness Locator Demonstrations
  • Equine Treadmill Demonstrations
  • Dog Agility Demonstrations
  • Marion County Sheriff’s Mounted Unit Demonstrations
  • Florida State Agricultural Response Team (SART) Emergency Response Demonstrations
  • Games and prizes for kids provided by CVM student organizations
  • Food truck rally featuring local eateries (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
  • T-shirts and merchandise for sale, with proceeds benefiting veterinary student clubs
  • Teddy Bear Clinic for the kids – bring your torn teddy bears for repair by UF veterinary students and the Alachua Veterinary Medical Association (ongoing)
  • Gypsy Gold Vanner Horses (ongoing)
  • Chris P. Bacon, the pig on wheels (ongoing)
  • Special appearance by Gator mascots Albert and Alberta (noon to 1 p.m.)

Open House 2016 Official Program

Updated 3/22/2016

UF veterinarians develop technique to test for manatee heart problems Thu, 27 Jun 2013 13:37:36 +0000  

An adult manatee receives an echocardiogram by Dr. Amara Estrada, a UF veterinary cardiologist, in the field at a Crystal River health assessment in the fall of 2011.

An adult manatee receives an echocardiogram by Dr. Amara Estrada, a UF veterinary cardiologist at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. (Photo by Dave Parkinson, Lowry Park Zoo)

Leisurely swims in warm, tropical waters fueled by the gaze of admiring fans and a healthy vegetarian diet.

The life of a manatee hardly seems likely to prompt concerns about heart disease. But researchers at the University of Florida say the lumbering, loveable sea cow’s ticker deserves a closer look because of the animal’s endangered status.

That’s why they’ve developed a technique to test for cardiac problems in endangered manatees, both in the wild and in captivity. The new technique will enhance knowledge of how the manatee heart functions.

The UF researchers are using the technique to gather data they hope to share with wildlife and zoo veterinarians to ultimately save more manatee lives. Collaborating with scientists from Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s marine mammal pathology laboratory in St. Petersburg, they are using echocardiography on the large creatures, making use of a specially designed table built to hold animals weighing up to 2,000 pounds.

“There are a lot of gaps in our knowledge base on basic anatomy and physiology of manatees due to the obvious limitations of working with a 1,000- to 1,500-pound animal that spends its entire life in the water,” said Dr. Trevor Gerlach, an intern in UF’s aquatic animal health program and lead author on a paper that documents the first phase of the researchers’ study in the June issue of the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. “Due to their current endangered status, it is important that we understand the animal in its entirety so that we can better tailor conservation efforts for the species.”

The researchers’ long-term goal is to provide practitioners at rehabilitation facilities and those working in the field with data from clinically healthy animals. Such animals could be compared to animals of concern to determine if cardiac disease is present.

To allow for effective testing, the researchers first developed a table built to hold the weight of 2,000-pound animals that were part of a large-scale manatee health assessment conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in Crystal River. Fourteen healthy, wild and captive Florida manatees underwent echocardiography, administered using the table technique, between fall 2011 and winter 2012. The group included eight females and six males of various ages.

Manatee sonogram

A manatee receives an echocardiogram administered by Dr. Ivan Sosa, center, a UF veterinary cardiology resident. Also shown assisting are veterinary technician Melanie Powell, second from right, and Dr. Trevor Gerlach, an aquatic animal health intern, far right. (Photo courtesy of Lowry Park Zoo.)

“We were able to clearly visualize all valves and chambers,” Gerlach said, adding that other key indicators of heart function also were successfully obtained. Some abnormalities in the study animals also were documented.

“Our results indicate that echocardiography in the Florida manatee is possible, which has both clinical and research implications in larger epidemiologic studies evaluating diseases of the cardiopulmonary and cardiovascular systems,” Gerlach said.

Although extensive research has been conducted on comparative anatomy, physiology and ecology of sea cows, very few studies have evaluated the manatee heart. Basic cardiac morphology and a test called an electrocardiogram have been examined, but the diagnostic value is limited to electrical imbalances in the heart, the researchers said.

“Echocardiography is the gold standard for diagnosing valve diseases and structural abnormalities, and provides other information as well,” Gerlach said.

Researchers are finishing up the second phase of the study, which entails collecting more data from echocardiographs to establish normal testing parameters for manatees of various ages.

“Once we establish the parameters, we can begin larger epidemiological studies on the prevalence of heart disease in the wild population, which is one of our long-term goals,” Gerlach said.

Dr. Bob Bonde, a manatee researcher with the USGS, praised the new technique.

“Out-of-water, real-time assessment of these large aquatic mammals will benefit our evaluation of manatee health-related indices in the wild population,” “Knowledge of manatee reproductive fitness and nutritional condition is paramount to our fully understanding their recovery.”

Dr. Amara Estrada, a veterinary cardiology specialist who mentored Gerlach while he was a UF veterinary student and assisted with his research, said the collaborative aspects of the project were especially valuable to her both professionally and personally.

“The opportunity to work with such a diverse group of people toward a common goal is especially meaningful to me as a clinician/researcher and can only be accomplished by being a part of the University of Florida,” Estrada said.

Thomas B. Waltzek Mon, 24 Jun 2013 20:21:43 +0000 Waltzek2Assistant Professor
Research Coordinator, Aquatic Animal Health Program

Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathology
PO Box 110880
Bldg. #1379, Mowry Road
Gainesville, FL 32611-0880
FAX 352-392-9704


  • PhD, Comparative Pathology, University of California at Davis, 2010
  • DVM, University of California at Davis, 2009
  • MS, Ecology, University of California at Davis, 2002
  • BS, Biological Sciences, Florida State University, 1998

Honors and Awards

  • 2010 – John L. Pitts Veterinary Student/Recent Graduate Scholarship
  • 2009 – Merck Achievement Award, UC Davis
  • 2009 – Wilds Scholastic Award, UC Davis
  • 2009 – AVMA Achievement Award, UC Davis
  • 2007 – Best Student Presentation, 33rd Eastern Fish Health Workshop

Research Interests

  • Characterization of Emerging Aquatic Animal Viruses (EAAVs) using Metagenomics;
  • Phylogenomics to study the Biology, Epidemiology, and Evolution of EAAVs;
  • Development of Broadly Applicable Diagnostic Methodologies to Track EAAVs;
  • Determining the Role that International Commerce of Aquatic Animals Plays in the Emergence of AAVs as it Relates to Global Aquaculture and Ecosystem Health.
  • Aquatic Animal Zoonoses, Public Health, One Health

Recent Publications

UF veterinarians help aquatic mammals tangled in fishing line Mon, 07 Jan 2013 20:46:05 +0000 UF vet plays key role in care of “star” dolphin Mon, 05 Dec 2011 23:26:20 +0000
Dr. Mike Walsh

Dr. Mike Walsh

Anyone paying attention to entertainment news these days knows about the new movie, Dolphin Tale, which opened Sept. 23 in theatres and tells the true story about Winter, a dolphin that survived entanglement in a buoy line by subsequently being outfitted with a prosthetic tail. What’s perhaps less commonly known is that the character of Winter’s veterinarian, played by Harry Connick Jr., is loosely based on none other than the University of Florida’s Dr. Mike Walsh.

Walsh, who is associate director of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Aquatic Animal Health program, also performs veterinary services at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is where Winter has resided since being rescued by scientists from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce back in 2005. Aquarium staff contacted Walsh, who was director of veterinary services at Sea World in Orlando at the time, to ask his advice about how to best obtain blood samples from the impaired dolphin.

“I first had contact with Winter when she was a baby, and because she was missing her tail, there was confusion as to how to get blood samples from her on a regular basis to keep track of what was happening with her,” Walsh said. “The probability of infection was high, so we needed to monitor blood on a regular basis.”


Winter, shown at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Winter had lost her tail because the blood supply to it had been cut off when she was tangled in the buoy line, Walsh said. He recommended that samples be taken from the peduncle, the area between the dorsal fin and the tail since it could not be obtained from the tail, which is standard for obtaining blood samples from most dolphins but was impossible in Winter’s case.

A year or so later, Walsh was serving as the park’s veterinarian. Many companies and individuals had approached the park about creating some type of prosthetic tail, but deciding whether this was a feasible option – as an alternative to euthanasia – and what the safest approach was, took some time, Walsh said. Eventually the park wound up working with a company called Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics of Waterville, Maine.

“They had the best idea for achieving the goal without hurting Winter’s skin or causing other problems, and we thought that working with David Yates’ team at Clearwater was going to be a long term benefit for Winter,” Walsh said. He added that Winter’s success from a medical perspective was greatly impacted by Dr. Janine Cianciolo, who took care of her after her injury and nursed the dolphin, along with other members of the aquarium’s team, through infection, wound healing and growth.

Five years later, Winter is doing well, Walsh said. However, he cautions that managing her tail is an ongoing, lifetime issue.

“We still have a great need to continue to make progress and to make things even better over the long run,” he said, adding that as Winter grows, the needs of her tail change also.

Winter’s prosthetic fin is “like a sock made for a certain sized shoe,” Walsh said. “Her tail has been modified many times by the Hanger group team headed by Kevin Carroll and Dan Strzempka, and we have gone through numerous prototypes as a result as the need for change. Each time we introduce a new tail, we have to go through a readaptation process, depending on how well it fits and the degree of propulsion she gets from it.”

Veterinarians need to make sure not only that Winter is moving properly and building her muscles, but also that she can function well in a multiple animal environment with individuals that have normal tail structure, Walsh said.

“The challenge with Winter is coming up with solutions to a problem that no one has dealt with before,” Walsh said. “This is where the College of Veterinary Medicine excels.”

When filming took place for the movie, Walsh spent a day at the park with Harry Connick, Jr., talking to him about various medical issues experienced by animals there, including showing the star how some stranded sea turtles were being treated.

For his involvement, Walsh was offered two tickets to the movie’s premier in Los Angeles, although he turned them down due to other obligations.

Others from UF  have also played an important role in Winter’s care over the past few years, including Dr. Carolina Medina, chief of the college’s acupuncture and rehabilitation service, and Dr. Nicole Stacy, a clinical pathologist.

Medina said she had gone to see Winter several times in the past two years, adding that she performed acupressure, laser therapy and therapeutic ultrasound, and in addition, showed Winter’s trainers how to perform massage and stretching exercises.

Stacy has been involved in processing and interpreting diagnostic samples from Winter since 2009, “two to three times a week and more frequently during the time of filming last year for the purpose of monitoring her health during the process,” Stacy said.

Mike Walsh Sun, 25 Sep 2011 01:14:58 +0000 Clinical Associate Professor
Clinical Coordinator, Aquatic Animal Health Program

Large Animal Clinical Sciences
PO Box 100136
2015 SW 16th Ave
Gainesville, FL 32608-0136
FAX 352-392-8289


  • DVM, University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., 1980
  • BA, Biological Sciences, Pre-Veterinary, University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., 1975
  • BA, Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, Kansas City, Mo., 1973

Honors and Awards

  • US Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director’s Conservation Award, 2008

Research Interests

Preventive medicine program development, conservation and endangered species research in sirenians, cetaceans, and sea turtles. Clinical research to improve preventive medicine programs including nutrition, diagnostic and treatment protocol improvement and development. Current research projects include: nutritional evaluation and components in cetaceans, manatees and sharks, whole blood element analysis in marine animals as a diagnostic tool, manatee milk analysis, and use of thermography as a diagnostic tool. Educational seminars within and between departments.

Recent Publications

Additional publications here.

Ruth Francis-Floyd Sat, 24 Sep 2011 23:34:04 +0000 Professor

Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences
PO Box 1001362015 SW 16th Ave
Gainesville, FL 32608-0136
FAX: 352-392-8289


  • BA, Biology, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, 1979
  • DVM, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 1983
  • MS, Veterinary Medical Science, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS, 1985
  • Diplomate, American College of Zoological Medicine, 1998

Honors and Awards

  • Certified Fish Pathologist, American Fisheries Society, 1989

Research Interests

As director of the Aquatic Animal Health program, I have had to decrease my research activity substantially over the past few years. My personal area of interest is health management of ornamental fish, with my preference being reef fish. With my graduate students, recent work has focused on nutritional management of captive Atlantic surgeonfish. Our newest project involves assessing the effects of water quality, specifically nitrate, on elasmobranch health. I also do limited clinical work with fish and marine mammal species.

Recent Publications

Publications listed here

Iske Larkin Sat, 24 Sep 2011 19:18:11 +0000 Lecturer
Educational Coordinator, Aquatic Animal Health Program

Large Animal Clinical Sciences
P.O. Box 100136
Gainesville, FL 32610-0126
FAX: 352-392-8289


  • PhD, Physiological Sciences, University of Florida, 2000
  • BS, Psychology, Florida State University, 1991

Scholarly Activity & Research

The majority of my position focuses on coordinating and developing new educational opportunities within the Aquatic Animal Health Program and the College of Veterinary Medicine overall. My research activities are only a small portion of my effort but include monitoring the effectiveness of online learning strategies ranging from upper level undergrads, graduate students, veterinary students and professionals. My scientific research includes studies of manatee reproduction, physiology and behavior. Previous work includes developing and validating steroid hormone assays for various species, including mammals and birds. Currently, I have an on-going study looking at male manatee reproductive anatomy at the gross and histological level.

Select Publications

N. Jayasena, Frederick, P.C., Larkin, I.L.V. 2011. Endocrine disruption in white ibises (Eudocimus albus) caused by exposure to environmentally relevant levels of methylmercury. Aquatic Toxicology 105: 321-327.

O.L. Crino, I. Larkin, S.M. Phelps. 2010. Stress coping styles and singing behavior in the short-tailed singing mouse (Scotinomys teguina). Hormones and Behavior 58 (2): 334-340.

Adams, E.M., Frederick, P.C., Larkin, I.V., and Guillette, L.J., Jr. 2009 Effects of mercury on fecal hormones in White Ibises. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 28(5): 982-989

H.J. Hamlin, B.C. Moore, T.M. Edwards, I.L.V. Larkin, A. Boggs, W.J. High, K.L. Main, and L.J. Guillette Jr. 2008. Nitrate-induced elevations in circulating sex steroid concentrations in female Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baeri) in commercial aquaculture. Aquaculture 281: 118-125.

I. L. V. Larkin, V. Gasson and R.L. Reep 2007. Observations on Digesta Passage Rates in the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Zoo Biology 26:503-515.

W. Fellner, K. Odell, A. Corwin, L. Davis, C. Goonen, I. Larkin, and M.A. Stamper 2006. Behavioral responses of two rehabilitated West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris): Before and after ex-situ behavioral extinction efforts. Aquatic Mammals, 32(1): 66-74.

M. R. Milnes, D. Bermudez, T. Edwards, M. Gunderson, I. L. V. Larkin, B. Moore, and L. J. Guillette Jr. 2006 Contaminant-induced feminization and demasculinization of non-mammalian vertebrate males in aquatic environments. Environmental Science, 100: 3-17

I. L. V. Larkin, T. S. Gross and R. L. Reep, 2005. Use of Faecal Testosterone Concentrations to Monitor Male Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) Reproductive Status. Aquatic Mammals 31(1): 52-61

Additional publications listed here