Dr. Melanie Dittmer and Dr. Kristie Schott have joined the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) as the newest Wildlife and Conservation Medicine Interns. Their year-long veterinary internships began on July 1.
Dr. Dittmer, originally from Carrollton, Texas, received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from LeTourneau University. She earned her doctorate at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences in 2021.
Before coming to CROW, Dr. Dittmer completed a small animal rotating internship at a private domestic practice in Nashville working with cats and dogs. During undergrad and veterinary school, she completed a wildlife summer internship at West Sound Wildlife and became involved in her University’s Wildlife Disease Association chapter and Zoo/Exotics/Wildlife clubs. While in her fourth year of veterinary school, Dittmer completed externships at the Waco Zoo, Abilene Zoo, Dallas Zoo, Fort Worth Zoo, Texas State Aquarium, and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center where she gained experience working in the attached wildlife hospitals.
“I have always loved animals, but I remember visiting Florida when I was a kid and hearing a presentation on the endangered Florida Panther. I went home and checked out several books on endangered species from the library, including one about tracking Florida Panthers,” says Dr. Dittmer. “From there I started getting interested in endangered species conservation then veterinary medicine! I love working with cats and dogs, but from the beginning I wanted to apply veterinary medicine to exotics and conservation.”
Dr. Schott grew up in Needham, Massachusetts before attending Princeton University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She earned her doctorate from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. After graduating, Dr. Schott completed a rotating small animal medicine internship at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston then a specialty internship in Avian and Exotic Medicine at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the diversity seen amongst wildlife,” says Dr. Schott. “Growing up, I read every book about animals in my elementary school library and in the summer spent countless hours by the ocean on Cape Cod trying to catch, study, and, of course, release different kinds of fish and invertebrates. As I got older, I started to think about ways I could use my work as an aspiring veterinarian to help animals beyond the scope of local vet practice, and that fascination made wildlife and conservation medicine a natural fit.”
Dr. Schott did her thesis research on the transmission of Toxoplasma gondii (a parasite shed in cat feces causing neurologic disease) to sea otters. This research developed her interest in wildlife ecology and fascination with the influence human activities can have on pathogen transmission between different populations. Long-term, Dr. Schott hopes to find a balance in her career between clinical wildlife medicine and research investigating wildlife health and disease at the population and ecosystem level. Since being at CROW, Dr. Schott has already started researching how regional limb perfusion treatments can improve treatment outcomes for birds with distal limb infections.
The Wildlife and Conservation Medicine Internship at CROW is centered around the ‘One World, One Health’ concept and designed for those who have completed their Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine and are interested in gaining experience treating wildlife. In addition to clinical duties, interns participate in research and conservation projects, give case and journal club rounds, and help teach students, staff, and volunteers.
“Working with cats and dogs gave me an amazing foundation needed to be successful in this field, but I am excited to start applying everything I’ve learned to other species,” says Dr. Dittmer. “I love surgery, wound management, radiology, and ultrasonography which we do a lot of at CROW. I am also excited for the opportunity to work with students again and engage in research projects!”
“My previous internships have given me a strong foundation in patient assessment and case management, but not as many opportunities to perform surgery so I am really looking forward to honing my surgical skills,” says Dr. Schott. “We’re so lucky to have an amazing team of knowledgeable, talented people supporting us, and I’m quite excited to learn more about the non-medical aspects of wildlife rehabilitation from them. I am also thrilled to be working within an organization involved in collaborative conservation projects outside of our clinical work in the hospital.”
If you would like to learn more about internships and externships offered at CROW, please visit www.CROWClinic.org/articles/student-programs.
About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond. Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.