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Dr. Harms Focused on Health of Aquatic Animals

The humpback whale was very sick when it became stranded on a sandbar near Ocracoke Island last spring, and Dr. Craig Harms knew the animal wasn’t going to make it back to the open water alive.

With a team from NC State’s Center for Marine Science and Technology in Morehead City, the associate professor of clinical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) embarked on a mission of mercy. To ensure the euthanasia was humane not only to the whale but also to the gulls and other scavengers that might feed on the carcass, Dr. Harms devised a lethal injection protocol using low doses of several drugs that don’t leave a toxic residue in the whale’s system.

Such clinical experiences—they usually have happier endings than euthanizing an animal—shape much of Dr. Harms’ research. In addition to handling aquatic animal strandings along the coast, he monitors the health of the fish and marine mammals at North Carolina’s three state aquariums and works with a Topsail Island nonprofit group caring for sick and injured sea turtles. “I’m opportunistic,” he says. “I collect tissue and blood samples and other data during clinical treatments, and I research things that appear unusual or don’t make sense.”

Read complete article in Results.

April 5, 2011