A collaborative effort among professionals from a variety of scientific fields to solve environmental and health problems was first envisioned over 20 years ago by Thomas Meehan, then on staff at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, and Lee Cera, then a University of Chicago graduate student.
"It became a passion," says Cera, D.V.M., Ph.D., now assistant dean, Comparative Studies; director, Section of Comparative Medicine; and associate professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
"When Lee and I started working together, there was no such thing as worldwide declines in amphibian populations," adds Meehan, D.V.M., now chief veterinarian at Brookfield Zoo. "Then people began to recognize the emergence of infectious diseases, and we reached a point where there was a kind of critical mass of interested investigators"
The institutional partnership offers rich opportunities for collaboration. Brookfield Zoo has a long history of leadership in the field of biology of small populations and investigations into the medical problems of these populations, while Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine has particular expertise in virology, immunology and molecular medicine. The University of Illinois operates the zoology pathology program that services the two zoos and aquarium in the Chicago area and conducts research into human as well as wild and domestic animal diseases.