Dr. Teresa Morishita is a professor of poultry medicine, a specialty she is board certified in. She was one of the youngest tenured faculty members to be promoted to full professor at The Ohio State University-College of Veterinary Medicine (Columbus), which was part of the largest allied health medical campus in the world.

Dr. Morishita holds a PhD in comparative pathology (emphasis on avian bacterial pathogens) and a doctorate in clinical veterinary medicine from UC Davis. She is from Hawaii where she attended undergraduate school at the University of Hawaii and also received one of her MS degrees from U of H (Manoa). She has won numerous federal grants in both poultry science and food safety, studying largely zoonotic bacterial gut pathogens of feathered and hominid vertebrates.

Dr. Morishita is now an Associate Dean at Western University of Health Sciences, the second and newest college of its kind in California, where she continues to teach avian medicine and microbiology through case-based curricula.  I resumed veterinary studies at WUHS, but took a leave-of-absence before ultimately assuming a curatorship at a zoological facility in Alaska.

Dr. Morishita saw extensive promise in me when I didn’t see it in myself.  I was ambitious about finishing my PhD despite the inability of my first advisor at OSU to continue to mentor me. He was the second faculty member at a university who had served as my primary graduate advisor and was ultimately unable to continue to supervise graduate students. It is a stressful experience for both the advisor and the student when such circumstances present, but through Dr. Morishita’s tutelage and faith in me I was able to prevail in graduate school studying parasitic pathogens of eight species of bears, three of which were included in field investigations.

Dr. Morishita would probably tell you that I was won of her most promising and possibly gifted students in some ways, but also one of her most humorous, volatile and emotionally high maintenance.

During our seven years working closely together, we were unaware that I was on the autism spectrum, but retrospectively I now see that the rigors of a dual degree program are difficult for anyone much less high-functioning autistic people who are particularly susceptible to stress. It probably didn’t help that I had no intentions of practicing veterinary medicine, but rather had curatorial aspirations with particular ambitions to work with captive wildlife in a zoo setting after my formal career as a zoo keeper.

Dr. Morishita was also the Editor of the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine and worked closely with Eric Miller,  DVM Dipl. ACZM the editorial board liaison and a mutual friend. Dr. Miller is the Executive Vice President of Zoological Operations for the Saint Louis Zoo.

Nonetheless, Dr. Morishita urged me not to quit veterinary studies despite the difficulty and although in some ways I regret it, I now know that I would not have enjoyed practicing companion or zoo medicine. Who knows? Maybe I will go back one day and become the next Murray Fowler or Dr. Doolittle, but I doubt it.

Dr. Morishita did graciously introduce me to my academic grandmother Dr. Linda Lowenstein. Dr Lowenstein is a Professor Emeritus of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine . She is a noted zoo and wildlife pathologist who had a special interest in marine mammal medicine, husbandry, and pathology.

Dr. Morishita and I traveled across the state of Alaska in search of bears and bear scat, attended numerous conferences together in the US, the contiguous 48 states, Hawaii and Europe, collaborated on waterfowl disease ecology studies, co-authored an academic textbook chapter on parasitology for bird species commonly managed in academic and government agency laboratories.

Dr. Morishita recently co-authored “Backyard Poultry Medicine and Surgery: A Guide for Veterinary Practitioners” with a colleague.

Her PhD program mentor at UC Davis, and my “academic” grandmother is the Linda Lowenstein.

Dr. Morishita has had a tremendous impact on my life and more so than any other mentor or teacher or supevisor or even employer. She was not just a mentor of record, but my closest confidant for many years. Although I have great difficulty sharing my gratitude and appreciation for her and all she has done for me, I do feel blessed to have met her and to have her in my life. She is an incredible mentor and friend and has touched the lives of countless students.

I served as the Assistant Director of the Laboratory for Wildlife & Environmental Health under her auspices at The Ohio State University while collaborating with her through her Laboratory for Avian Health.

My graduate committee included some of my long-time mentors from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo who were appointed adjunct faculty for the purposes of serving on my committee and potentially to advise future students:

Dr. Albert Lewandowski DVM
(Chief of Clinical Zoological Medicine, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo)

Dr. Chris Bonar VMD Dipl ACZM (Director of Veterinary Services, Dallas Zoo and formerly of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo)

Don Kuenzer and Alan Sironen served the committee in informal advisory capacities as they were longtime mentors and senior curators at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and were invaluable in their service.

Additional advisors appointed from OSU Colleges (Veterinary Medicine and Natural Resources) include the following notable researchers and OSU faculty members:

Dr. Mo Saif, DVM, MS, PhD Dipl. ACVM, Charter Dipl ACPV
(Professor Emeritus, Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine/Food Animal Health Research Program, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, The Ohio State University

Dr. Stan Gehrt, MS, PhD (Associate Professor, College of Food Agriculture & Environmental Sciences, The Ohio State University)

Carl Anthony,  MS, PhD

Dr. Carl Anthony is an Assistant Professor of Biology and my graduate advisor at John Carroll University, where I began my MS research on fitness in salamander hybrids and parental species.

Under Dr. Anthony’s mentorship I examined hybrids and parent species of dusky and mountain dusky salamanders challenged with naturally contracted helminth infestations to gauge their fitness, or as an indicator of fitness. This was a good example and relatively early study in the discipline of evolutionary ecology examining fitness in a natural hybrid zone.

Dr. Anthony is the mentor who really introduced me to academic research, which I am only suspicious of because I’m so terrible at it. “Terrible” is a strong word and perhaps passing harsh judgement, but ecology is largely quantitative in many respects.  One reason I gravitate toward nature writing is because I enjoy the more qualitative aspects of natural history in the context of organismal biology and life sciences.

With that said, Dr. Anthony was an exemplary advisor and mentor and friend and is quite an accomplished academic ecologist. He has served on numerous editorial boards of scientific journals and continues to mentor students on topics relevant to more common and imperiled ectothermic vertebrate and invertebrate populations.

As much as Dr. Morishita is the “Queen of All Things Gallinaceaous”, Dr. Anthony is the “King of  Lungless Salamanders”.

He recently coauthored a texbook on red-backed salamanders with his PhD Advisor and lead author Robert Jaeger.  (Jaeger, R.G., B. Gollman, C.D. Anthony, C.R. Gabor, and N. Kohn. 2016. Behavioral Ecology of the Eastern Red-backed Salamander: 50 Years of Research. Oxford University Press. 248pp.)

Nonetheless, he gave my turtle, terrapin and crocodilian collection, which I tended to for many years in a 200 gallon tank above my parents garage on Shaker Boulevard, a purpose beyond native and exotic herpetile acquisition and exhibition.

Steve Mendive was the Director of Development at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and prior to that role wore many hats, including that of animal trainer. He is a paramedic and managing fire fighter with the Anchorage Fire Department during the day. He also has been a key consultant to the International Association for Bear Research and Management.

Sandra Dee Robinson is a wildlife conservationist, owner of a media training firm and former television actress on Daytime and Prime Time television. She co-hosted  Zoo Talkin’ Radio, a web-based program  with myself, Dr. Grey Stafford and Conrad Schmitt.

Dr. Grey Stafford is the former Director of Conservation at the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium and currently the General Manager of Dolphinaris a new marine mammal facility in Arizona. He is the current president of the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association.

Conrad Schmitt most recently served as the Executive Director of the Center for the Conservation of Tropical Ungulates following an assistant directorship at Utah’s Hogle Zoo. He was Curator of Mammals at Zoo Miami and and Animal Collections Manager at the San Diego Zoo. In total, he has worked at as many as seven Association of Zoo and Aquarium member facilities and is now consultant other institutions around the globe.

Dr. Michael Hutchins is a noted zoo and wildlife biologist and the former Director/William Conway Chair of Conservation and Science for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. He is the former CEO of the Wildlife Society and currently a program director with the American Bird Conservancy. Michael, a world renowned expert on zoos, graciously agreed to participate in a lengthy series of interviews with me for National Geographic Society’s online editorial news publication.

Billy Hurley is a marine scientist, animal trainer and former Executive Vice President for Animal Care and Operations at the Goergia Aquarium, which when it opened was the largest aquarium in the world. Billy is also past president of several membership-based industry organizations.