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Cornell University

Let’s Talk about Fishers!

By Amanda Bielecki, Cornell DVM ‘25

Prior to attending veterinary school, one of my main goals was to attend a wildlife-focused conference. Now, as a rising third year veterinary student at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, I have been fortunate enough to present at a wildlife-focused conference based on work at the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab (CWHL) under my mentor Dr. Krysten Schuler. The time I have spent in this lab has only solidified my interests in disease surveillance and free-ranging wildlife health at a population scale. Over the years, the time I have committed to my projects and the CWHL has only expanded, serving as a wonderful complement to my veterinary coursework.

Recently, the CWHL partnered with the Wildlife Futures Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine to collaborate on two different projects assessing lead concentrations in northeastern carnivore species. As a result of these projects, we have now collected data on lead levels in peregrine falcons, bobcats, and fishers. 

This past spring, I was very excited to deliver an oral presentation with Dr. Erica Miller from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine at the 79th Annual Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (NEAFWA) conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania. At the conference, I presented Dr. Schuler’s preliminary data assessing lead exposure in both bobcats and fishers. We discovered there was a significantly higher rate of exposure in the fisher population compared to the bobcat. This data has paved the way for my current summer independent research project assessing lead exposure in fishers trapped by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as part of a greater effort to learn more about the health impacts of lead in our wildlife populations.

Amanda Bielecki presenting at the NEAFWA Conference
Amanda Bielecki, DVM '25, presenting at the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Conference.

I was able to attend the conference through an award I received from the Cornell Wildlife Health Center Student Support Fund, and I am truly grateful for the abundance of valuable knowledge and skills that I gained from the NEAFWA conference. I learned about novel research projects focusing on northeastern U.S. wildlife during the poster sessions, and I was able to attend numerous symposia including the One Health symposium, the Fisheries symposium, and the Existing and Emerging Threats to Fish and Wildlife Health symposium. 

As I work towards my goal of becoming a state wildlife veterinarian, this initial exposure to wildlife-related governmental organizations and agencies provided me the opportunity to network and connect with numerous leaders in the field outside of academia. I am beyond thankful for this opportunity to gain exposure to wildlife-related activities outside of my standardized curriculum. Until next year, NEAFWA - I had a blast!

Amanda Bielecki in the lab

Amanda Bielecki is a third year Cornell veterinary student with interests in the field of free-ranging wildlife disease surveillance and population medicine. She plans to pursue a PhD in epidemiology after veterinary school and strives to become a state wildlife veterinarian.

Please consider giving to the Cornell Wildlife Health Center Student Support Fund to help provide more hands-on experiential learning opportunities for students passionate about wildlife health and conservation.

Related programs: Cornell Wildlife Health Lab