Research informs us about animal health, enabling us to better manage both individual animals as well as groups or entire species. The context in which this work happens is varied, for example:
Public sector work by quarantine inspectors, biosecurity officers, policy advisers, universities, zoos.
Community, health, and welfare: by community educators, health specialists and veterinarians, and more.
Scope of Work
Work may focus on one or more of the following:
- Understanding Diseases - disease lifecycle, how it impacts animals
- Treatment - hypothesis development then testing
- Significance - risk level, prevalence, susceptibility, impact (economic/ social)
Work may be conducted in the laboratory or the field. Both can involve
- Handling animals - dead or living, sampling blood or tissues, conducting scans (eg. MRI, X rays, CAT scans)
- Data Handling - collecting, collating, analysing, reporting
Laboratory work may involve clinical work such as chemical testing, growing cultures, microscopy.
Field work is more likely to deal with observing infected animals and testing treatment options.
Research work may be undertaken by scientists, farmers and animal industry professionals, supported by research assistants, laboratory assistants, administrative assistants, field workers and various others.
What You Need to Learn
General understanding of genetics – basic genetics, gene regulation, drug resistance mechanisms, cell biology
- Animal health and behaviour - recognising ill health and diseases, behavioural cues indicating something is wrong, parasites, transmission of infection
- Parasitology – parasites, diseases
- Population and ecology – habitats, ecological interactions, environment, population and community ecology, sampling methods
- Feed and nutrition - what your target animals eat, nutrition requirements for reproduction, other biological systems
- Ethics and welfare – theories and ideas underpinning animal rights, when animal rescue organisations will step in\
- Scientific methodology and data collection/analyses – hypothesis, universal methodologies, theories, sampling strategies, data analysis, statistics
- Biochemistry and some pharmacology - classification of molecules, absorption, drug degradation and metabolismChemistry – basic chemistry, molecular formulae, toxicity, chemical safety
- Writing skills – learn how to write for different audiences, and how to communicate and present effectively
Starting a Career
To start a career as a researcher, most people start volunteering for a laboratory, work alongside scientists at an university or science institute. Some choose to work during summer holidays for a farm or a research group, as they have full availability.
Other entry pathways include:
- volunteering for local non-profit organizations, helping with animal surveys;
- working in animal centres and rescues, helping liase with carers or vet clinics;
- doing administration work in animal health practices;
- interning with zoos or aquaria;
- conducting experiential research, such as birdwatching, keeping records of movement, tracking;gaining experience around animals, as part of a formal program, or informally through community activities, work experience, or even pet sitting.
Progressing a Career
Career pathways include community education, governmental agencies, veterinary medicine and research, animal husbandry – most will be carrying on research on animal health, diseases and biosecurity.
There are many ways to progress your career, including:
- working with holistic therapists to develop new protocols;
- consulting with other sectors to develop your skills;
- improving your communications skills;
- conducting market research in the pet food and therapeutic toy industry.
Networking is especially important in this area. Many people want to work with animals, so it's essential to set yourself apart and hear about more opportunities by getting to know the community. Attend shows and seminars, and make sure you speak to presenters and other experts.