Student Research Solves Dairy Goat Illness

January 13 2017
Category: Academics

Today’s #SoaringToSuccess features a double header of undergraduate research from students Cory Blanchard and Melody Ribeiro. Cory, a biology major and chemistry minor, reflects on his summer research that helped save the lives of baby goats, or kids, at a Vermont dairy farm.

Let’s hear from Cory…

This past summer I had the amazing opportunity of being able to take part in hands-on summer research with Dr. Bezotte and Melody Ribeiro, collecting samples in the field from a large dairy goat farm in Vermont over the course of a week. In October, we presented our research at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in the chemical and biological sciences at the University of Maryland  Baltimore County, which had over 280 research pieces presented and more than 500 undergraduate scientists and researchers attend.

The primary aim of the summer research was originally to determine the microbiological makeup of a goat’s immune system and whether the microflora was transferred from the mother to the kid as it was born. As we started collecting samples, however, it was found that a surprising number of infant goats were becoming mortally ill or were not in tip-top shape and the team quickly changed research aims to figure out what may be some of the causes and see whether these concerns could be immediately addressed.

After collecting and analyzing a large selection of samples, we were led to believe that nearly all goats who appeared ill or were violently ill had probably succumbed to secondary infections. Some of the secondary infections included those of multi-drug resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, since many of the kids also had a virus that led to a weakened immune system, commonly called sore-mouth. After suggesting some changes in particular cleaning and care practices, the group found that many of the goats are doing significantly better and appeared much healthier than before.

This internship not only provided an opportunity to go into the field and do the work required of collecting samples but to also be able to go to a conference to look, ask, and be asked questions about all of the hard work that goes into something like this. I learned new techniques that can be implemented in my dream job of a microbiologist and I learned invaluable research and presentation skills that can be used to do even better at subsequent conferences.

I was and remain truly grateful for this opportunity to go into the field, to present, and to work hard towards a goal that, in the end, actually made a difference.

Learn more about Cory and Melody’s summer research, visit their project blog