Hands-on learning: from at-risk wolves to teeming Galapagos

Kathryn MeursCollege of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

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NC State is unsurpassed in the variety of ways we offer rare hands-on experiences for our veterinary students. Here are just a few.


With our own pack of red wolves on campus, the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine is at the center of a nationwide effort to repopulate the world’s most critically endangered canid species. Our students learn how to manage wild animals, participate in providing medical care for injured wolves, and conduct research into genetic problems and reintroduction techniques. Students, known as the Carnivore Conservation Crew, also provide husbandry for the red wolves, administering medicines, keeping log books and offering enrichment activities twice a day. In March, the US Fish and Wildlife Service released 2 wolves tended at NC State into the wild on North Carolina’s coast, the only place the red wolf exists outside human care.


Every year, internationally renowned Professor Greg Lewbart takes an eager contingent of third-year students to the Galapagos Archipelago to do hands-on research of the wildlife and ecology. Working on the islands off the coast of Ecuador immerses students in a country with different resources, health challenges, and economic drivers, an experience that is critical to cultivating an understanding of global health. On the most recent trip, students helped perform health assessments on whales, sharks, stingrays, and sea lions, with a particular emphasis on studying what might be making sea lions cough.


Just outside our back door, 80 picturesque acres provide a home for pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, and cattle and a learning lab for veterinary students. The Teaching Animal Unit, as the working farm is known, is a dynamic space for students to learn husbandry, production management, and procedures used routinely in livestock production. Part of what makes it special is that students can observe and work with a range of agricultural animals in a real farm setting, all within walking distance of their regular classrooms. Students have labs at the farm during their first 3 years and make visits as part of their senior rotations during their fourth year. For students passionate about marine animals, the NC State Center for Marine Sciences and Technology on the North Carolina coast offers access to unique marine sciences courses and a broad range of research and internship projects, as well as hands-on field trips.


NC State students saw many tortoises during a hands-on research trip to the Galapagos in May 2022.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 260, 10; 10.2460/javma.22.05.0216


To help students examine the inherent complexities of improving health on a worldwide scale, we provide a formal certificate in global health. The program offers an introduction to challenges and provides students an understanding of key concepts, tools and frameworks essential for continued study in global health. The Certificate in Global Health covers the global disease burden, health determinants, and disparities and health policy and actors. The program also provides an introduction to the methodological approaches and techniques used in global health research, including qualitative fieldwork, quantitative surveys, experimental designs, intervention trials, and program evaluation.

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Contributor Notes

Corresponding author: Dr. Meurs (