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DENVER/February 14, 2020 – Morris Animal Foundation, one of the largest nonprofits funding animal health studies globally, has welcomed two new members to its Wildlife Scientific Advisory Board (WSAB). Dr. Robert Fitak is an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida’s Department of Biology and Dr. Dirk Werling is Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Molecular Immunology at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.

“We are thrilled Dr. Fitak and Dr. Werling accepted our invitations to join our WSAB. They both have a true love of animals and a desire to solve the problems they face,” said Dr. Janet Patterson-Kane, Morris Animal Foundation Chief Scientific Officer. “Their perspectives will round out the expertise on the board and help us make crucial decisions to assist in supporting wild animal populations around the world.”

Morris Animal Foundation’s WSAB, one of four scientific advisory boards at the Foundation, is comprised of 10 members who represent a diversity of veterinary specialties, from immunology to epidemiology. Their review process ensures the Foundation supports the highest quality research by providing objective review from experts in the field. Each year, they evaluate more than 150 grant proposals and recommend which ones to fund, based on scientific merit and the potential to save lives, preserve health and advance veterinary care.

Dr. Fitak’s experience encompasses a wide swath of questions and species, covering topics such as population genomics, phylogenetics, circular statistics and zoonotic diseases. He’s also studied diverse species ranging from a fungus to salmonids to wolves and even camels.

“I have known about Morris Animal Foundation for a while and am excited to now contribute my expertise to their mission, especially when it comes to the increased application of genomics in a variety of wildlife contexts,” said Dr. Fitak. “I look forward to being a part of the Foundation’s community and making new, lifelong colleagues in the process.”

Dr. Werling’s current main research interest is the ontogeny of the innate immune system between species, the importance of single nucleotide polymorphisms in innate immune receptors for ligand binding, and how scientists can use their knowledge regarding the innate immune system to design new or optimize existing vaccine strategies.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that wild animals are facing numerous manmade threats and Morris Animal Foundation plays an important role in understanding them,” said Dr. Werling. “I am happy that my knowledge might contribute to their decisions to fund exciting work to advance science that can save wild animals for the future.”

Morris Animal Foundation, headquartered in Denver, is a global leader in supporting studies to find solutions to serious health threats to animals. Since its founding in 1948, the Foundation has invested more than $155 million in over 2,700 studies that have improved the health and quality of life for dogs, cats, horses and wildlife around the world.

About Morris Animal Foundation

Morris Animal Foundation’s mission is to bridge science and resources to advance the health of animals. Founded by a veterinarian in 1948, we fund and conduct critical health studies for the benefit of all animals. Learn more at