My Week at EcoHealthNet

In June 2019, EcoHealth Alliance hosted its EcoHealthNet Workshop themed “Emerging Threats to Global Health.” I was fortunate enough to be one of the diverse group of scientists to take part in the workshop. It was an eye-opening experience and I left with the realization that we need to bring more disciplines together to approach our environmental problems.

I, myself, am a biologist. Currently I’m working with the Peregrine Fund on a project aimed at protecting the critically endangered Puerto Rican sharp-shinned hawk. I came to the 2019 EcoHealthNet Workshop because I’m interested in how wildlife disease and anthropogenic factors–like deforestation and urbanization–can affect the health of communities and the conservation of endangered species.

EcoHealthNet is a National Science Foundation-funded program run by EcoHealth Alliance which seeks to connect student research scientists like myself from the fields of medicine, ecology, veterinary science, epidemiology, virology, anthropology, climate science, data science, and economics in order to promote the idea that it is through coordination among scientific fields that we can truly make the world a healthier place.

One great takeaway from my week with this exceptional group is how important One Health is to help in the implementation of environmental policies that will benefit the health of humans, animals, and the ecosystem. While scientific study is often siloed by discipline, it’s by working together that we can prevent the future infectious disease outbreak and species extinctions.

EcoHealthNet participants visit the Potomac Science Center
EcoHealthNet participants visit the Potomac Science Center

During our week together, my fellow students and I had the privilege of meeting and hearing from scientists tackling disease transmission from a wide array of angles, from those developing vaccines to the scientists conducting on-the-ground surveillance to learn what pathogens are circulating where.

It was a unique experience, not only to learn how to plan and implement a conservation program at such a micro- level as a single community, but also learn the necessary tools and technology to educate more effectively with communities, government institutions, and organizations.

EcoHealth Alliance's Dr. Jonathan Epstein mentors students at EcoHealthNet 2019
EcoHealth Alliance’s Dr. Jonathan Epstein mentors students at EcoHealthNet 2019

This workshop also brought me the opportunity to build a bridge between faculty members and people like myself, who represent the next generation of conservation scientist in order to share ideas and knowledge. Working together, we can better implement ideas in future projects that will impact wildlife and local communities for the benefit of our society and biodiversity.

The lesson is that before implementing any conservation project it’s crucial to know more deeply the cultural practices and needs of the local community is one I will take back to my everyday life.

I want to thank the EcoHealth Alliance for the opportunity to be part of EcoHealthNet and collaborate with other participants. Also, thank you to Drs. Jonathan Epstein and A. Alonso Aguirre for sharing their knowledge and creating this network, which will lead to future collaborations.

EcoHealthNet Workshop Class of 2019
EcoHealthNet Workshop Class of 2019

To other student scientists out there: I encourage you all to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity in the future. I cannot overstate how great it is to be part of such a wonderful community as EcoHealthNet alumni.

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