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December 14, 2023

Development efforts are underway for the next phase of WHISPers (Wildlife Health Information Sharing Partnership – event reporting system).

The ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021)-funded effort will advance the current system goals of providing a centralized repository for agency-provided and laboratory-verified wildlife health information that is both national in scope and species and disease agnostic. 

Why this matters:  Following the philosophy of One Health, the health of wildlife, domestic animals, humans, and the ecosystems they reside in are inextricably linked. Information about disease in wildlife is therefore important not just for wildlife but for the health of all. While the current WHISPers focuses on wildlife disease information, we are now exploring a more robust national wildlife disease database that can help inform action at the ecosystem level.

Screenshot from WHISPers system showing map-based location finder.
Fig. 1. New map-based location finder provides several different map layers, a search function, and captures latitude-longitude, county, state, and country information. 

The initial, short-term development effort to address usability improvements was released in mid-October as WHISPers version 2.5. Several improvements and new features a were released, including an administrative dashboard which enables partner agency administrators to approve and manage users within their organization, reducing the current iterative communications between partners and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) to enroll agency users in WHISPers. Another new feature is a map-based location finder (Fig. 1) that expedites entering location information and improves location reporting precision. This feature includes multiple map layers, and automatically captures latitude-longitude, country, state, and county information.

Subsequent usability development efforts includes a mobile-ready pilot, and redesigned event creation and management pages. NWHC’s usability specialist interviewed select users to capture their experiences and thoughts on the platform, especially in regard to creating and managing events. Feedback is currently being analyzed and will help direct the event creation and management page redesign. It is anticipated new page versions will be ready for testing by December. 

We have also begun scoping wildlife health information needs with multiple partner agencies, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Wildlife Services, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center (WFRC), as we develop system requirements for the national wildlife disease database called for by Congress in ARPA. This longer-term development effort, in addition to meeting partners’ information needs, will include connectivity with data streams such as WFRC’s eDNA-driven, national aquatic disease and pathogen database, AquaDePTH. NWHC will also be working with state partners, through the four AFWA regions, tribal partners, and additional management and laboratory entities in the upcoming months to further define information needs and the scope of system development.  

As always, we greatly appreciate the support state, federal, and tribal partners, and AFWA have provided throughout WHISPers development. We will continue to work closely with agency partners and AFWA to assure that future development is robust, user friendly, addresses partner needs, better informs wildlife health, and fulfills Congress’ direction to develop a national wildlife disease database. If you would like to provide feedback or input on future WHISPers development, please contact Bryan Richards ( or Katie Richgels ( To learn more about WHISPers and how to participate please visit the WHISPers landing page or contact 

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