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Zoo Veterinarian Guthrie: “Be Fearless”

Amanda Guthrie oversees the care of 10,000 invertebrate and 10,000 vertebrate animals as senior veterinary officer at the ZSL London Zoo, located in Regent’s Park, London.

A Thomas Jefferson Scholar and recipient of the Dean Durward and Shirley Bateman Scholarship, Amanda earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science at CALS in 2001, and another in political science with a minor in genetics the following year. After becoming a doctor of veterinary medicine through the University of Illinois, she worked at zoos from Boise, Idaho, to Brownsville, Texas, before moving across the Atlantic.

How did you become interested in your field of study?

I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, since I was a very young child; I have never really considered any other career path. My dad has an animal science degree from NC State, so animals and agriculture have always been a huge influence in my life. I grew up playing with dogs and chickens and taking horseback riding lessons. I fell in love with zoos and exotic animals through a series of summer internships while I was an undergrad at NC State. I spent a summer at the Philadelphia Zoo and I just knew I had to find a way to work with exotic animals.


CALS grad Amanda Guthrie Ag Pack Strong Baby Porcupine

What has been your favorite day of work so far and why?

My favorite day of work that comes to mind was in January 2016, when we began hand rearing two Malayan tiger cubs because they were rejected by their first-time mother. Malayan tigers are critically endangered in the wild, with fewer than 300 breeding adults remaining. It is a profound experience to get to contribute, in even a small way, to the survival of such a rare species.

That’s the importance of the work that zoos do; we are fighting every day to help conserve this planet and the animals, plants and people that share it. These two tigers, who are now over one year old and thriving, are an example of the positive impact that zoos can have. We used that opportunity to educate the public about the plight of the Malayan tiger and I’m really proud to say that we might have helped conserve tigers in some small way.

Tell us a little bit about your research.

I really love practical, clinically-oriented research and studies that help us better understand the diseases of and care for animals both in captivity and in the wild. I also really love learning about infectious diseases. Most recently, I published work about Snake Fungal Disease, which is an emerging disease of wild snakes across the U.S. We were the first to confirm this disease in Virginia, and we confirmed it in two new species of snake.

I am passionate about the links between captive and free ranging animals, and I believe that we can help save animals in the wild through the work that zoos do. We also frequently fund and participate in research that directly contributes to the conservation of wild animals.

Oftentimes, the things we learn about captive wildlife directly translate to helping animals survive in the wild.

I love when our work comes ‘full circle’ and we can see the positive impacts. I believe it is my responsibility to learn all that I can about helping animals and to disseminate that information so that others might benefit as well.

In what ways did CALS help you achieve your dream?

My time spent at CALS was the foundation for the scientific work that I do now; I loved my time there. I love learning, and I was inspired by my professors and classmates to perform well and find a meaningful way to contribute to science. I always knew I wanted to go to veterinary school, and my time in CALS certainly helped me be successful in my advanced coursework and in my daily professional life.
I remember those times so fondly, especially when we went out to the farm units to work hands-on with the animals. CALS provided me with an excellent foundation, particularly in animal anatomy/physiology and nutrition, which was extremely valuable in veterinary school.

What advice would you give to students who want to follow in your footsteps?

I would tell students that if you’re willing to work hard, that anything is possible. I was told many times that it is difficult to get into veterinary school and it’s especially competitive to become a zoo veterinarian, but I didn’t let that stop me. I knew I would work harder than anyone else to make my dreams come true, and that has really paid off for me. I also believe very much in seizing any opportunity that is presented to you and to be fearless in your endeavors to be successful.

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.