Why is the study of marine mammal diseases important to your health?
This summary is in reference to:
Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 58(1): 86-99. 2022.
Aricia Duarte-Benvenuto, Carlos Sacristán, Laura Reisfeld, Priscilla C. Santos-Costa, Natalia C. C. dA. Fernandes, Rodrigo A. Ressio, Daniela M. D. Mello, Cíntia Favero, Katia R. Groch, Josué Diaz-Delgado, José L. Catão-Dias
Arícia Duarte Benvenuto
Arícia Duarte Benvenuto is a PhD student at the Laboratory of Wildlife Comparative Pathology, at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, University of São Paulo, Brazil. She graduated from this very same institution in 2016 and spent three years working in a rehabilitation facility specialized in marine fauna.
What drew you to the research topic you explored in your submission?
I saw an orca for the first time when I was five years old, and I was fascinated by it. This encounter really stayed with me, and since then, I have been very passionate about marine mammals. As I grew up, this interest developed into an endless curiosity about all aspects related to marine mammals, and an urge to better understand the world we share, and how interconnected we are. Becoming a veterinarian seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn more about them and about marine mammal health, and further understand how I could contribute to their protection and conservation. In this path, I learned that the health and welfare of humans, animals and the environment is intertwined. Thus, I quickly realized that by working with marine mammal research I could not only try to fulfill my personal curiosity, but most importantly, also contribute into filling in the gap of knowledge regarding their health and environmental interactions, eventually working towards a more sustainable world.
How do you see your work contributing to public policy, citizen science, and/or science education more broadly?
Our work focuses on the increasing number of stranding and mortality events in the southeastern Brazilian shore. By analyzing its patterns and trends, we are aiming on understanding their causes, and elaborating and implementing mitigation measures, especially in terms of human-related activities that negatively impact the marine environment. Additionally, our study directly relates with public policy once all of our data were collected within a project required by the Brazilian Ministry of Environment for the licensing process of the oil exploitation.
Finally, marine mammals such as fur seals, are very charismatic creatures. Thus, studies and protection measures related to these animals are very appealing to the general public and serve as a great tool for science education and awareness, as well as an opportunity (as an umbrella species) to protect other species and environments that are not as appealing and charismatic as fur seals.
What are your continuing research goals for the future (near and/or far)? What topics, areas, subjects are you interested in exploring?
In the short term, my main goal is to successfully finish my PhD thesis, which will hopefully shed some light into the field of marine mammal infectious diseases. After that, I intend to pursue a career in the field of aquatic animal research, always focused in infectious diseases and related epidemiology within a One Health approach, and get more involved in continuous education activities (both academic and directed to the general public), and elaboration of scientific projects in this field of research.