Conservet is a hands-on workshop for veterinary students, veterinarians, biologists and others who have an interest in learning more about the interface between animal, human and environmental wellness and the population/habitat-based prevention of illness.  In general, the philosophy of this approach to ecosystem health and the health of its inhabitants is to work upstream to define the root causes of health dysfunction that empower the formulation of early interventions in order to interrupt the forward progression of the illness cascade.

Conservet is an on-site course that puts the student in the center of the ecosystem of concern. Instructional format is in the form of preparatory lectures, group discussions and gaming exercises, in concert with hands-on immersion in field study methods that characterize the complexities of environmental functions and the consequences that can obtain when these natural processes are disrupted. Instructors are professionals in the field of environmental medicine and in some cases will involve students in on-going research investigations aimed at a better understanding of ecologic health and decline.

Conservet students are oriented toward the basic principles of ecologic medicine, then presented with specific features that signature the field environment in which the course is being conducted. Since populations often form the units of concern in ecosystem decline, basic epidemiologic concepts will be presented that enable a definition of health dysfunctions and the development of appropriate interventions available for the ecosystem health practitioner.

Conservet considers the complexities that can compromise effective and sustainable solutions to global wellness by not only exploring the science available to define health problems, but also the difficulties in formulating policies that allow scientific knowledge to be effectively applied. Since the practice of global medicine very often has socioeconomic dimensions, workshops underscore the need to work across professional disciplines to meet the challenges inherent in establishing protocols that mitigate illness in a context where conflicts of interest can disrupt ecosystem stability.

Conservet was launched in 2014 and has been conducted in various venues in Costa Rica, including the Texas A&M Soltis Center.  This course works with several free-ranging sentinel species of human, animal and environmental health, including rodents, bats, birds, amphibians, opossums, mosquitoes, sandflies and triatomine bugs.  Insect vectors of Chagas’ Disease, Leishmaniasis, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya and Zika viruses are being investigated.

Epidemiologic principles, including supportive GIS and GPS technologies, are introduced. Wild birds and poultry are PCR tested for Avian Influenza in cooperation with the Costa Rican government veterinary service (SENASA). Work with other livestock species such as horses, cattle and goats is included in the context of small family farms.  Root divers of health dysfunctions, including climate change, energy production methods and agricultural operations are considered.  Similar to MARVET, there is interest in expanding participants beyond veterinary students.

For more information on current workshops and related news in conservation medicine, please visit the CONSERVET website.