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Our Research

Science has the power to change the world

As the global leader in supporting scientific research that advances veterinary medicine, Morris Animal Foundation has invested more than $100 million toward more than 2,400 studies to improve the health and well-being of dogs, cats, horses, llamas/alpacas and wildlife.

At any given time, Morris Animal Foundation is managing more than 200 active studies. Each year, we also fund about 30 veterinary student scholar projects. Search our health study database by species or area of study to learn more about research that will make a true difference in the lives of animals—today and tomorrow.

To sponsor a study, please contact a member of our sponsorship team for the most up-to-date status on our research projects at sponsorship@MorrisAnimalFoundation.org or call 800.243.2345. 

Search Results

Assessing risk to European vultures consuming carcasses containing non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs

Summary: Researchers will study the health risks and exposure of European vultures consuming carcasses containing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used to medicate livestock. 

Description: Vultures are extremely sensitive to the toxic effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Multiple studies document Asian vultures dying from kidney failure caused by inadvertent ingestion of these drugs from medicated livestock carcasses. Although strict veterinary regulations exist in Europe, the licensing and use of diclofenac, a type of NSAID, in several countries poses serious concerns for the health and conservation of vultures in this region. Researchers will study NSAID exposure in vultures living on the Iberian Peninsula, home to 95 percent of Europe’s vulture population. The team will identify the scope of NSAID use in livestock and analyze residues from these drugs in vultures as well as domestic animal carcasses, a primary food source for these birds. Data will be used to inform policies on NSAID use in livestock and its effects on wildlife.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ignasi Marco, Autonomous University of Barcelona

Sponsors:

Study ID:

Determining Causes of Poor Reproduction in Endangered Cranes

The whooping crane is one of the most critically endangered species in north America. The species was virtually eliminated by 1942, leaving just 16 cranes. Despite decades of captive breeding and reintroduction efforts in the United States and Canada, the number of wild whooping cranes remains at only 400. To maintain genetic diversity and supply birds for reintroduction into the wild, every crane must reproduce. Unfortunately, fertility in the captive flocks is poor, and only 65 percent of eggs are fertile. This may be due to low gene diversity or to suboptimal breeding and management. This study will determine the underlying causes of poor reproduction and will develop protocols to boost fertility and chick production, which are necessary to ensure the species’ recovery.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Nucharin Songsasen, Smithsonian Institution

Sponsors: Co-sponsors: Neil and Sylvia Van Sloun, the Van Sloun Foundation; The Coypu Foundation

Study ID: D10ZO-023

Determining Whether Lead Affects Health and Behavior of Mockingbirds

Researchers will assess how exposure to lead may affect the health and behavior of the northern mockingbird.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jordan Karubian, Tulane University, Pilot Study

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14ZO-816

Determining Whether Translocation of Wildlife Spreads Diseases

Relocation of endangered species can expose the reintroduced species and the native species to new disease-causing agents. This ecology of disease introduction will be examined in the New Zealand saddleback bird, which has a well-documented translocation history. This study aims to improve baseline data for diagnosis, preventive measures and management for possible disease outbreaks.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ellen R. Schoener, Massey University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D13ZO-811

Developing a Tool to Detect Illness in Raptors without Clinical Signs

Techniques for monitoring the health of avian patients, especially raptors, are limited, and early detection of many conditions is often difficult because birds exhibit minimal behavioral changes until they are severely ill. Acute-phase proteins produced by the liver in response to inflammatory stimuli are becoming increasingly important in the evaluation and treatment of mammalian diseases but have rarely been applied to birds. The researchers of this study believe inflammatory markers can be used to distinguish injured or infected raptors from healthy birds before they exhibit signs of illness. They hope to develop a panel of inflammatory markers measured in peripheral blood of red-tailed hawks to help assess disease conditions in raptors and allow earlier detection of health problems.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Lisa Tell, University of California–Davis

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Neil and Sylvia Van Sloun, the Van Sloun Foundation

Study ID: D12ZO-026

Ensuring Long-term Survival of Endangered Cranes

Producing large numbers of fertile eggs is crucial to the conservation of many bird species. Currently, 11 out of 15 crane species are listed as vulnerable or endangered worldwide, and reproduction rates of cranes in conservation facilities are low. Without reproduction, population sustainability, including maintenance of healthy and genetically diverse crane populations, is at risk. Researchers will examine the seasonal relationship between hormones and egg production in Sandhill cranes as a model for other endangered cranes. The team will track ovarian activity via ultrasound, and hormone concentrations via blood and fecal sample analysis. Findings will be used to better understand why some females consistently produce eggs while others do not, and to enhance global crane conservation efforts. This study will fund a promising young researcher at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Principal Investigator: Megan E. Brown, MSc, Smithsonian Institution

Sponsors:

Study ID: D17ZO-414

Evaluating Effectiveness of Pain-relief Drugs for Raptors

Raptors with traumatic wounds and fractures are often brought to veterinarians in wildlife rehabilitation centers or zoos, and some require surgery. it is critical to a bird’s recovery that it receive appropriate pain relief during treatment. opioids are a class of drugs frequently used for pain management in veterinary medicine. Despite great advances in evaluating and using opioid drugs in parrot species, there have been no studies evaluating the appropriate analgesic drug, dose and frequency to treat injured raptors. This study evaluates drug metabolism, pain-relieving effect and required dose and frequency of two opioids— butorphanol tartrate and hydromorphone—in American kestrels. This is the first controlled study evaluating the analgesic properties of any drug in a raptor species.

Principal Investigator: Dr. David Sanchez-Migallon Guzman, University of Wisconsin

Sponsors:

Study ID: D10ZO-305

Evaluating Effects of Persistent Environmental Contamination on Birds

The Brunswick, Georgia, area has four Superfund sites, formerly home to heavily contaminated toxic waste sites. Contaminated sediment was removed from one of the most contaminated sites in the late 1990s, but since then investigators continue to find high concentrations of toxic materials in the area. This study will evaluate the toxic levels and the effects of persistent environmental contaminants on the health and reproductive success in least terns, a colonial, fish-eating seabird living on a highly contaminated estuary near Brunswick. The researchers hypothesize that the least terns breeding around this Superfund site will exhibit compromised reproductive success and health because of the contamination of their food source. The study will provide environmental stewards with tools to effectively monitor contamination in an ecosystem and will benefit a variety of wildlife species cohabitating with least terns along rivers and coastlines across the country.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Sonia Hernandez, University of Georgia

Sponsors:

Study ID: D12ZO-024

Evaluating the effects of lead poisoning on bald eagle cardiac health

Few diagnostic tools are available to wildlife rehabilitation hospitals and veterinarians to properly assess the health of bald eagles recovering from lead poisoning. A recent study showed that more than 35 percent of lead-poisoned eagles had heart lesions that could impact their ability to return to and survive in the wild. Researchers will compare three diagnostic tools to assess the heart strength and functional ability of bald eagles treated for and recovering from lead poisoning. This information will help establish a metric to determine treatment effectiveness and if recovered eagles can be released and be expected to thrive in the wild.

Principal Investigator: Patrick T. Redig, DVM, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Sponsors: ZuPreem®/Premium Nutritional Products

Study ID: D15ZO-838

Examining the Link Between Lead Exposure and Poor Health

In the Santa Fe province of Argentina, an international hot spot for duck hunting, more than 10 tons of lead gunshot are introduced into the environment every year. initial studies show that large numbers of native ducks ingest and are poisoned by these lead pellets. Lead contamination may also threaten the health of other species, including humans, who ingest lead that enters the food chain. This study will further quantify the relationship between lead exposure and the health of native ducks and will measure the extent to which humans and animals are exposed to lead in the ecosystem. These data are needed to justify banning the use of lead ammunition in Argentina.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Marcela M. Uhart, Wildlife Conservation Society

Sponsors:

Study ID: D10ZO-021

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