What We Do

The NWHC provides information, technical assistance, and research on national and international wildlife health issues. We monitor and assesses the impact of disease on wildlife populations; define ecological relationships leading to the occurrence of disease; transfer technology for disease prevention and control; and provide guidance, training and on-site assistance for reducing wildlife losses.

Our Mission

National leadership to safeguard wildlife and ecosystem health through dynamic partnerships and exceptional science.

For more details, check out the NWHC Mission Brochure & Core Values.


Background and Activities

The USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) is the only national center dedicated to wildlife disease detection, control, and prevention in the United States.

NWHC Branches Venn Diagram

This venn diagram demonstrates the closely integrated branches of the National Wildlife Health Center. The three branches of the NWHC are the Wildlife Disease Diagnostic Laboratories Branch, Wildlife Epidemiology and Emerging Diseases Branch, and the Applied Wildlife Health Research Branch.

Each year, wildlife managers across the United States are confronted with sick and dead animals, frequently on a large scale. Minimizing such wildlife losses depends on effective technical support, knowledgeable guidance, and timely intervention. The National Wildlife Health Center provides information, technical assistance, and research on national and international wildlife health issues by monitoring disease and assesses the impact of disease on wildlife populations; defining ecological relationships leading to the occurrence of disease; transferring technology for disease prevention and control; and providing guidance, training and on-site assistance for reducing wildlife losses when outbreaks occur.

Through a comprehensive program involving biomedical and ecological expertise and capabilities, the NWHC is a world leader in developing research solutions to the most deadly wildlife diseases, such as avian influenza, white-nose syndrome in bats, and other emerging diseases that have devastated wildlife populations around the world and pose significant public health and economic risks. This includes playing a key role in detecting novel pathogens, developing rapid diagnostic tests, conducting surveillance, and designing methods to control these diseases, not only in the United States, but globally.

Scientists at the NWHC possess a wide array of expertise and capabilities, including wildlife biology, ecology, statistics, quantitative modeling, epidemiology, veterinary medicine, microbiology, molecular biology, toxicology, and immunology. For more details, check out the NWHC Organization Chart.

The Center is organized into three Science Branches—Applied Wildlife Health Research, Wildlife Epidemiology and Emerging Diseases, and Wildlife Disease Diagnostic Laboratories—that operate on a national scale.

The NWHC operates at the main campus located in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as the Honolulu Field Station (HFS), which addresses wildlife health issues in Hawaii and the Pacific Region. The buildings and laboratories are designed exclusively for combatting wildlife diseases. Due to the mobility of wildlife and the potential for spread of disease, timely and accurate determination of causes of wildlife illness and death is a prerequisite to achieving effective disease control and prevention. National wildlife refuge personnel, law enforcement agents, state conservation agency biologists, university-affiliated scientists and others send wildlife carcasses and tissue samples to the NWHC for diagnostic examination. The Center has a staff of over seventy scientists and support personnel who offer services and conduct activities to prevent and control wildlife diseases. The Center had a major role in conducting field studies and providing expert testimony that resulted in the conversion to nontoxic shot for hunting waterfowl in the United States.

Center field investigations provide immediate technical assistance to field personnel who find sick and dead wildlife. NWHC personnel provide instructions on collection, preservation, and shipment of specimens for laboratory examination and will travel to problem areas to conduct field investigations and assist local personnel with disease control operations. They respond to catastrophic events, such as major die-offs, that threaten the health of wildlife populations. Assistance is provided for disease problems that involve migratory birds, endangered species and other warm-blooded wildlife that live on Department of Interior (DOI) lands throughout the United States.

Center staff also provide expertise regarding animal welfare regulations and their application to wildlife. Technical assistance regarding animal welfare matters is often provided to wildlife biologists and others. Preparation of publications, consultations and training are activities commonly carried out by the Center in the animal welfare arena.

One Health 

“One Health” refers to the concept that the health of humans, animals, and ecosystems is inextricably linked and emphasizes the necessity for collaboration to address global health challenges to optimize outcomes for human, domestic animal, and wildlife health. Collaborative partnerships are imperative to the One Health approach for tackling these challenges, and the NWHC focuses on creating partnerships that use shared expertise. For example, the NWHC partnered with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative to become a Collaborating Centre for Wildlife Health and Biodiversity within the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). OIE Collaborating Centres provide their expertise to the international animal health community. Another example is the NWHC’s membership in the USDA’s National Animal Health Laboratory Network, a network of State and Federal laboratories established to provide consistent, timely, and accurate testing for disease agents, such as highly pathogenic AI, of critical importance to national security and the economy.

One Health Diagram

Credit: John M. Evans, USGS. Public domain.

Core Values

  • Inspiration: We recognize that the health of wildlife is vital to the sustainability of the Earth’s eco systems
  • Leadership: Our National scope and breadth of expertise provide us with the strength to be a leader in promoting the importance of wildlife and ecosystem health, bringing it to the forefront of national consciousness
  • Partnerships: We recognize the power of partnerships and actively seek and foster collaboration in all our activities. Our work is guided by the diverse needs and challenges of those we serve who are responsible for the stewardship of our Nation’s wildlife and ecosystems
  • Integrity: We hold ourselves to the highest standards to produce quality science in a transparent manner that will inform managers and policy decision-makers
  • Innovation: We meet the difficult challenges of our work with creativity and passion, generating innovative solutions to complex problems
  • Culture: Recognizing our employees as our foundation, we strive to provide a safe, supportive, and respectful environment that values teamwork and diversity of thought


Fact Sheet of the National Wildlife Health Center

For more information, view our NWHC Fact Sheet.


Employment Opportunities

Check out our Employment, Externship, and Volunteer Opportunities.