Many animal owners look to their community veterinarians for routine checkups, immunizations, and treatment of minor illnesses and injuries. Community practice veterinarians are general practitioners, like family doctors. However, like family doctors, community practice veterinarians may see patients that could benefit from the care of a specialist. Dr. Leah Cohn, Professor of Small Animal Internal Medicine and Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, wants people to know that veterinary specialists exist, and at the University of Missouri Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, those specialists are on call to help.
Imagine waking to a bright, sunny day, but not really being able to see. Some people go their whole lives without witnessing that vivid red ball from their youth or the facial features of a loved one. Kristina Narfström, a veterinary ophthalmologist at the University of Missouri, is doing research that promises to provide some light at the end of the tunnel.
In addition to her work with Cytauxzoon, Dr. Cohn also researches “infectious, immune-mediated, and respiratory diseases.” This includes research on feline asthma and another tick-transmitted disease, Erhlichia, that affects both dogs and humans.
Because it is not possible to ask cats and dogs about the severity of their blindness, Narfström describes other ways to assess an animal’s vision, including behavioral studies.
Narfström is interested in the hereditary blindness that originates in human photoreceptor cells. She studies dogs and cats that contract blinding conditions similar to those found in human beings.
Prather describes how his life experiences led him to a career in animal sciences that spans more than twenty years and focuses specifically on the contribution of pigs to biomedicine.
Whether their work seeks to counter domestic violence and ethnic genocide, identify cancer treatments, or employ literature and music to understand humanity, these MU faculty describe in their own words why this work is important to society.
When asked about why they were drawn to this area of research or creative activity, MU faculty provide interesting and compelling responses. In some cases, they continued in school because the drive to learn new things was so great, because family provided a sense of identity and career direction, or because of initial interest in a related field. In other cases, they stumbled upon the field quite by accident. Regardless of the reason, the passion they hold for their work is obvious.
With the tree-hoppers Cocroft demonstrates how sexual reproduction relies on elaborate communication. The vibrational signals sent through the stems and leaves of plants are “very important in mate choice.”
If the signals of two populations of the same species diverge for some reason, individuals from one group may be less likely to recognize individuals from the other group as mating material – “and these can eventually become separate gene pools, whereas if their signals stay the same they are likely to interbreed. That’s a very strong homogenizing force that can prevent them from differentiating into different species.”
MU Biologist Rex Cocroft studies animal communication, something he was drawn to at a very young age. Communication is crucial to life at many levels, occurring within a cell, between cells, or between organisms within social groups.
“Once we reach the level of communication between individuals, not only is there the fascinating intellectual challenge of studying communication, but there’s also this tremendous aesthetic appeal – that the signals themselves are often beautiful: the songs of whales, the flapping of butterfly wings, the scents of flowers.” Beyond its inherent beauty, communication is very important for the biology of organisms, since the evolution of the signals has much to do with the evolution of the species itself.