New study abroad course: Conservation Medicine in New Zealand

  • Aug 25, 2016
  • Faculty & Staff, Research, Students

MSU students learn about glaciers, climate change and extremophiles on the Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand.

MSU students learn about glaciers, climate change and extremophiles on the Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand.

A new study abroad course—conservation medicine—will be offered for the first time spring semester 2017 by the Department of Integrative Biology in MSU's College of Natural Science.

The Conservation Medicine in New Zealand program, to be offered each spring semester, focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to health by considering the relationships between animal health, ecosystem/environmental health and human health viewed through the lens of culture. 

"Human health depends on healthy ecosystems,” said Jeanette McGuire, integrative biology assistant professor. “More than 75 percent of new and emerging diseases are zoonotic—they move between animals and humans. One in five diseases results from preventable environmental exposures. To solve complex problems such as health issues, researchers and medical professionals will need the skills, tools and background provided by an integrative approach to global health—including finding solutions through learning from and communicating effectively with different cultures."

MSU’s 13-week, 12-credit course will be spent exploring New Zealand’s natural environment while students learn about the field of conservation medicine through a mix of traditional lectures, cultural activities, field excursions, and field and laboratory research. 

Participants will explore unique ecosystems (including glaciers, volcanic activity, temperate rainforests, alpine habitats, coastlines, marine systems, freshwater and wetlands), and evaluate aspects of biodiversity and how they impact health. Students will learn and develop research skills drawing from the fields of ecology, evolution, behavior, molecular biology, histopathology, bioinformatics, statistics and more. 

Working with experts in the field, students will participate in cutting-edge research projects (such as evaluating bacterial biodiversity and identifying potential new antibiotics from bacteria collected from extreme environments). They will also work with local indigenous cultures to obtain a broader perspective of health, and strengthen skills that will aid them in their future careers.

For more information about other research and activities happening in the department of integrative biology, visit its 2016 newsletter.