Featured Researcher: Jenny Bloodgood

Jenny Bloodgood is a PhD-DVM student who joined the Integrative Conservation and Forestry and Natural Resources program in 2013. Her doctoral research includes exploring how the diet of green sea turtles in captivity can be modified to improve their survival and rate of release back to the ocean and measuring the effectiveness of conservation education. In both cases, Jenny is using a rehabilitation center as a model for how these facilities can serve as boundary organizations between individual animal-based veterinary medicine and environmental education.

Jenny’s background in wildlife and her previous experiences in veterinary medicine led her to pursue the dual PhD-DVM degree at UGA. She received a MS in Wildlife Biology from Clemson University in 2010, and went on to work with the Veterinary Services Department at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, NC. She has always been interested in animal-human interactions, so when she discovered the ICON program, which promotes the marriage of natural and social science, it was the perfect fit. Jenny’s major advisor is Dr. Sonia M. Hernandez, both a wildlife veterinarian and ecologist whose research theme is to investigate how anthropogenic activities influence the ecology, health and disease prevalence of wildlife. Sonia has a record of incorporating the human dimensions of natural resources in her research (such as understanding what motivates people to conserve wildlife) and thus, both share many common interests.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) on Jekyll Island, GA is Jenny’s home-base for research. This past summer she finished her first field season while completing her ICON internship at the GSTC. For this, she worked in the sea turtle hospital, where she spent time learning the ins and outs of veterinary care and husbandry of a variety of wildlife species, from sea turtles to diamondback terrapins to rattlesnakes. She started collecting samples from green sea turtles for dietary analysis in order to determine the nutritional health of those turtles coming into versus leaving the hospital. Through her internship, she also served the education department as a docent. Through this experience, and with the support of an Innovative and Interdisciplinary Research Grant from the UGA Graduate School, she was able to cultivate the concept of sea turtle rehabilitation centers as boundary organizations. To begin testing this theory, she developed a survey and started a pilot study to assess people’s attitudes and perceptions surrounding sea turtle rehabilitation. Data analysis is not yet complete, but Jenny hopes to use her pilot project as a basis for a larger study in future field seasons.

Jenny hopes that her research will contribute to and expand the current knowledge of the interface between wildlife veterinary medicine and the public. She hopes to utilize her interdisciplinary training to improve the management of sea turtles in rehabilitation facilities, providing valuable tools for assessing their health as well as improving educational programming.