Over the past 20 years, marine mammal strandings and mortalities have been investigated in an ad hoc manner with little effort to place health or disease findings in an ecologic, population, veterinary or public health context. The Marine Ecosystem Health Network (MEHN) addresses this void by fostering broader collaborations with stranding networks, research scientists, veterinarians and field biologists to better understand marine ecosystem health dynamics.
The goals of the Marine Ecosystem Health Network include:
- Establishing a regional and broad nationwide database that integrates ongoing diagnostic findings and surveillance to better assess the emergence and dispersal of pathogens, impacts of anthropogenic activities, and compare findings across geographic regions.
- Studying the ecology of infectious diseases within the marine environment.
- Determining whether land-to-sea transfer of infectious diseases from wildlife, livestock and companion animals is an emerging threat to marine animal and human health.
- Uncovering mechanisms and routes of pathogen transfer, and evaluating potential measures that may mitigate their dispersal and impact in susceptible marine populations.
- Enhancing carcass detection, reporting, recovery, necropsy protocols, sampling strategies and efforts to maximize data collection from necropsied animals and better understand the natural history of the animal and potential role of infectious and non-infectious disease on individual and population health.
- Developing comprehensive protocols for the opportunistic sampling and banking of tissues from live-stranded marine mammals admitted to rescue facilities as part of the medical management plan for these animals
- Developing response plans for catastrophic disease outbreaks.
- Providing multidisciplinary opportunities for undergraduate, post graduate and veterinary students to pursue investigations into aspects of human, veterinary and marine ecosystem health.
- Raising public awareness about the health of marine mammal populations, potential threats to human health, and the role that anthropogenic disturbances play in contributing to disease in marine ecosystems.