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

Advancing wildlife health science for the benefit of animals, humans, and the environment

Our 5-year vision

Providing new solutions to promote wildlife health and ecosystem resilience

Strategic Science Plan 2020-2025

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.

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.

Organizational chart showing the structure of units at the National Wildlife Health Center.

Organizational Chart of the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. (Click to view larger image.)

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, see the NWHC Organization Chart.

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.

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.