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Center for Wildlife Health (CWH)

The Center for Wildlife Health is located within the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries in the Institute of Agriculture at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. The Center provides a multidisciplinary environment for the study of health issues arising from the interaction of wildlife, livestock, humans and the environment. The Center contributes at both the regional and international level through seminars, taught courses, research and public outreach.

Wildlife Health research, and the related field of Conservation Medicine, are academic areas that are growing rapidly in importance. This growth is being driven in part by concern about zoonotic diseases — cross-species diseases that travel to humans from other animals — such as rabies, Lyme disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), avian influenza, West Nile virus, and other emerging infectious diseases. Similarly, diseases such as bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis travel from wildlife to livestock and thereby threaten our agricultural production systems. Furthermore, diseases such as chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk, and chytridiomycosis in amphibians, are examples of growing health threats to valued wildlife populations themselves.

Such issues require not only fundamental research into wildlife disease ecology and diagnosis, but also application of research findings in ways that provide practical assistance for resource managers and policy-makers. These problems must be addressed using a team approach that involves wildlife biologists, entomologists, veterinarians, animal production managers, public health specialists, epidemiologists and numerous other disciplines. A key objective of the Center for Wildlife Health is to assist these specialists working closely together, both on the UT campus and through off-campus collaboration.


  •     To facilitate research and educational collaborations on wildlife health and zoonotic disease issues among faculty members and graduate students associated with various academic units in Knoxville
  •      To promote specific collaborations among faculty that will engender large project planning and grant applications not presently practical in any one unit    

Research Program

1) Seed Grants The centerpiece of the CWH ORU will be seed grants (six at $5000 and two at $10,000) that will facilitate inter-campus research projects that will be expected to result in substantial extramural grant applications and funding.  A requirement for the application will be participation by more than one tenure-line investigator from different administrative units (i.e., >1 department), one of which must be from UTK. ORNL investigators must be funded through an affiliated UT department or program. Support can be used for personnel (excluding PI salary and benefits), supplies, and minor equipment.  Grants will be evaluated by a panel of experts appointed by the ORU’s co-directors. The awards will be for one year with the possibility for continued funding if the project shows significant progress in the previous year. The split of monies among investigators will be determined by the applicants.  The potential for extramural funding based on seed grant findings will be a key component of proposal evaluation.  

2) Travel Grants – UTK and UTIA scientists also will be able to submit an application to the CWH ORU for travel support for conferences to present research findings or for research planning meetings with professionals outside of UT.  Twelve travel grants at $500 each will be awarded. 

3) Seminars – Two seminars will be organized to bring to Knoxville noted speakers whose research on wildlife and zoonotic disease will be of interest to diverse students and faculty members. These seminars will be followed by a social gathering in order to facilitate informal interactions among students and faculty dispersed throughout the campus.

ORU Management and Evaluation

The ORU will be co-directed by:

  • Dr. Graham Hickling (Research Associate Professor, FWF)
  • Dr. Melissa Kennedy (Associate Professor, CVM).
  • Dr. Chunlei Su (Associate Professor, UTK Dept. of Microbiology)

Current CWH members: Shigetoshi Eda, Brad Fenwick, Richard Gerhold, Matthew Gray, Ted Henry, Debra Miller, Lisa Muller, Marcy Souza, Rebecca Trout-Fryxell.

Stakeholders Committee : Deans and Associate Deans from the Colleges with participation in the CWH ORU will form a stakeholder’s committee that will be chaired by the directors of the ORU.  This committee will meet twice a year to evaluate the progress of the CWH ORU and to advise on directions and programmatic issues.

Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) : The Directors and Stakeholder Committee will receive external advice from a three- or four-member SAB. Noted researchers from universities that have strong wildlife/zoonotic disease programs will be asked to serve on the SAB. The SAB will report to the UTK Vice-Chancellor of Research on the progress of the CWH ORU.

Graham J. Hickling, Research Associate Professor
Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries
Center for Wildlife Health
274 Ellington Plant Sciences Bldg.
2431 Joe Johnson Dr.
Knoxville TN 37996
Phone: (865) 974-6173

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