Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wildlife Disease Association, book marketing, The Trouble With Lions, Polar bear, bison

Writing from the forecourt of the Coles bookstore in the Edmonton City Centre Mall, where I am surrounded by copies of The Trouble With Lions and the big 2’ x 3’ poster that the U of Alberta Press made up for me. I’ve never tried this sort of selling before, but I’ve discovered that selling books can only really be done by the author getting out there.

This has been best exemplified over the last 3 days in Edmonton. I have been here attending the annual meeting of the Wildlife Disease Association, with its great website (here) the world’s premier group of like-minded scientists who concern themselves with wildlife in general and the diseases that affect them in particular.

The major themes of this year’s conference have been the overarching concern with global warming, and the more specific field of northern wildlife. Neither was any surprise, first because global warming is having a huge impact as animals move ever more northwards as the climate gets warmer and the habitat changes, allowing species to push at the edges. When I say species, most of us will think of things like white-tailed deer or moose, but as students of disease systems we have to remember that microscopic worms that can kill their hosts can also move into warmer climes because they can overwinter when conditions allow it.

The “poster child” species that has grabbed the attention of the media is the polar bear, and there is no doubt that they are charismatic, dangerous and already in trouble as the polar regions are warming faster than any other on earth. Over a period of about 12 years, starting in the early 1980’s I made several trips to the north, sometimes twice a year, to work on polar bears and wood bison. One publication from those days is about the development of a new drug for polar bear capture. You can find an abstract here but I'll have to put the pictures in when I get home. Home and now able to get at pics. Here's a favourite polar bear picture.

I'll also have to add pictures of our bison work, but a couple of abstracts of the original work are here, the first about the capture, the second about reproductive studies (pregnancy diagnosis). And here are some bison pictures.

With both species I was of course working with teams of biologists who were studying a range of issues centred on the ecology of the animals.

Who knows, one of these days I will put together a book about those trips, but right now it lies in 2nd place on the mental Rolodex of work as I have begun the research on my next big project, which I am calling, for now at least, The Virus and the Vaccine: How Cattle Plague Changed World History.

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