Biology Alumna and Faculty run workshops at University of Pennsylvania

On March 6-8, 2020, two affiliates of the Biology Department ran two workshops at the Special Species Symposium 2020. The Symposium is an annual weekend-long training event for veterinary students interested in exotic animals. This year it was hosted by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine and drew vet students from all over the eastern US and Canada. 

Josie Thal, CWRU alum (Biology 2019) and current student and Aquatics Chair for the Special Species Club at PennVet, and Dr. Ronald G. Oldfield, Senior Instructor of Biology at CWRU, originally planned to present a fish identification workshop at the Symposium. Oldfield emailed the Interim Curator of Ichthyology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Dr. Mark Henry Sabaj, and he agreed to lend Oldfield specimens to take to the workshop for students to examine. 

Dr. Sabaj also mentioned that the Academy had a collection of >150-year old fish skeletons that had originally come from UPENN. He suggested that Oldfield use those specimens to show PennVet students some of the materials that their university used when teaching vet students >150 years ago. The opportunity sounded so interesting that Oldfield not only agreed to include the skeletons in the workshop, but he also invited Dr. Sabaj to attend the workshop so he could present those remarkable specimens himself. Sabaj agreed, so both Oldfield and Sabaj led parts of the workshop, with the organization overseen by Thal. “It was the best experience I have had in quite a while,” Oldfield said about the event.

But that wasn’t all. There was another speaker scheduled to come to town to present a fish necropsy workshop, but that person canceled in what would become one of the first of a world-wide series of cancelations due to COVID-19. So, they asked Oldfield to run that workshop too. “I managed to find a market in Philadelphia similar to our West Side Market here in Cleveland and I went there and bought hundreds of dollars in fresh fish and used them to run the second workshop,” Oldfield said. “It was a very busy weekend!”

In addition to the two fish workshops, the Symposium included bird anatomy workshops, dissections of porpoises and sea lions, a tranquilizer dart training session, and many other workshops and talks.