Featured IACUC/IBC Speaker, Dr. Sam Wasser
Dr. Samuel K. Wasser received the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Medal in 2018 for his work on developing non-invasive techniques for monitoring human impacts on wildlife. Sam’s work has received international attention and championed the application of non-invasive methods for wildlife research worldwide. He has led research efforts to improve the survival of the endangered southern resident orca that frequent Puget Sound, demonstrated impacts of oil development on endangered caribou in the Alberta oil sands, and identified the major poaching hotspots and transnational ivory smuggling cartels operating throughout Africa.
Sam developed non-invasive methods to reliably measure DNA, a variety of hormones and toxicants in wildlife scat. He also pioneered the use of detection dogs to locate these scat samples over large remote wilderness areas from the targeted species he studies. The dogs in his program are shelter rescues, chosen for their ability to be trained to be highly effective scat detectors. He has applied these methods to monitor dozens of species, including: grizzly bears, killer whales, right whales, pocket mice, northern spotted owls, Jemez salamanders, wolves, caribou, moose, coyote, cougar, bobcat, lynx, fisher, marten, pangolins, jaguar, maned wolves, tapir, tigers, lions, cheetah, elephants, invasive plants, sea turtle nests, and even chemicals in the environment like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
While Sam’s dogs are not part of the IACUC approvals the animals that produce the scat are! The biomedical clues within this scat provides the information that Sam can use to inform conservation, management and protection of some of the world’s most endangered and iconic animals.
Sam works closely with the University of Washington IACUC committee to ensure that this wildlife research is carried out in a manner consistent with the highest possible ethical and other protections. The work with orca, for example, is essential for their long term health and survival. Working with the IACUC Sam plans out every step of the research process to minimize the impact on this highly vulnerable population.
This keynote presentation at NWABR’s annual IACUC conference will both reflect on Sam’s research and show the importance of collaboration between researchers and IACUC committees as they work together to understand, protect and advance animal welfare.