Recipients of the One Health Graduate Award | Partnership

2022 Awardees




Evaluating bone lead levels in Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) in Ontario

About the Project:

Thousands of free ranging wild birds ingest lead from the environment, and many are subsequently admitted to wildlife rehabilitation centres. Current methods to detect lead levels in live birds often require obtaining a blood sample to assess blood-lead levels. This method is somewhat invasive and does not truly reflect the levels of lead in the birds because the vast majority (up to 90%) of lead which is stored in bone. A newer technology called x-ray fluorescence (XRF) is a non-invasive, non-destructive analytical technique used to determine the elemental composition of various sources. It is essential because with the vast majority of lead stored in bone, we want to quantify the levels of lead in birds to have a better understanding of how long we must treat (e.g. via chelation therapy) birds in rehabilitation centres. We also have an opportunity to develop prognostic factors based on lead thresholds found in bone and whether or not these birds have a chance of rehabilitation and release. 

Working with people, animals, and the environment to understand the prevalence and impact of lead will enable us to better understand how to improve wild animal welfare, identify the potential location of lead (or at least where the birds were found to further investigate the presence of lead in the water system in a subsequent study). The health of wildfowl and water systems is strongly linked to human health. While urban Canadian lead exposure is now extremely low, people in who hunt wildfowl, and subsistence fish, are known to have higher lead exposure. Eating wildfowl is correlated with higher blood lead levels, but the absence of quantitative measures of lead exposure in wildfowl means the assessment of human health risk from eating exposed birds is limited. While we do not eat swans, measurements in these birds could be a useful surrogate for other wildfowl and used in models of human uptake. 

Meet the Team:

Principal Investigator (U of G)

Sherri Cox

Assistant Professor | Department of Integrative Biology

College of Biological Science | University of Guelph

As a wildlife veterinarian and Medical Director at the National Wildlife Centre, Dr. Sherri Cox is passionate about helping to improve the health and welfare of wild animals and disseminating new information about unique cases she sees when treating sick and injured wildlife. From moose to mice and turtles to terns, Dr. Cox treats all indigenous wildlife. Dr. Cox seeks to help connect students, the public, wildlife rehabilitators, and scientists together to improve the lives of these wild animals through a One Health concept.  

Co-Investigator (McMaster)

Fiona McNeill

Professor | Physics and Astronomy

Faculty of Science | McMaster University

PhD Student (U of G)

Coming soon…


Understanding anthroponotic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to domestic and wild animals

About the Project:

Since January of 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has caused COVID-19 illness in more than 200 countries and regions, causing approximately 375 million human infections  and 5.7 million deaths. While much research has focused on zoonotic transmission to explain the SARS-CoV-2  spillover event, anthroponotic transmission has been much less studied. We hypothesize that both regular or inadvertent interactions between infected people and domestic and/or wild animals allows for anthroponotic transmission of COVID-19. Our hypothesis is supported by reports that domestic cats and dogs owned by infected individuals have become infected with SARS-CoV-2, and direct human-to-animal transmission has been proposed from epidemiological data and genetic similarities of SARS-CoV-2 strains isolated from wild animals and their keepers in zoos. Minks infected with SARS-CoV-2 have also been identified on farms in several countries where infected farm workers were speculated as the source of infection. The objective of this project is to conduct genomic-based epidemiological surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in domesticated and wild animal populations that live in close contact with humans. In addition, the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the environment will also be assessed.  This research is important because the genetic diversity of coronaviruses is caused by accumulation of mutations and high-frequency homologous recombination, leading to infections across interspecies barriers and potential subsequent re-infection of humans with deadlier mutants.  In addition, host-switching events could cause SARS-CoV-2 to adapt to a wider array of selective pressures, leading to emergence of new viruses and diseases.

Meet the Team:

Principal Investigator (U of G)

Lawrence Goodridge

Leung Family Professor in Food Safety

Director | Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety

University of Guelph

In January, 2019, Lawrence joined the Department of Food Science as Director of the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety, where he holds the Leung Family Professorship in Food Safety.  Dr. Goodridge conducts research in a One Health context, as it relates to control, detection and surveillance of pathogenic microorganisms including bacteria, viruses and parasites. Dr. Goodridge has published more than 100 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and has been awarded more than $30 million in research funding from US, Canadian and international funding sources.

Co-Investigator (Western)

Eric Arts

Professor | Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Canada Research Chair in HIV Pathogenesis and Viral Control

Microbiology and Immunology

Western University

Co-Investigator (U of G)

Scott Weese

Professor | Department of Pathobiology

Director | Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses

Ontario Veterinary College | University of Guelph

PhD Student (U of G)

Apply now to join the team!

Students enrolling in a PhD program at the University of Guelph are eligible for this award.

To find out more about this opportunity, email Dr. Goodridge.