Prof Darrell Abernethy
I qualified as a veterinarian from the University of Pretoria, South Africa in 1985. I then worked in Northern Ireland as a state veterinarian and epidemiologist for the next 25 years apart from an ODA aid contract in Botswana (1991 and 1994). Between 1995 and 2012, I researched the epidemiology of animal diseases that impacted on human and animal health, particularly bovine tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis, led a team of epidemiologists and advised government agencies on control strategies. I obtained a Masters of Social Science (Queens University, Belfast), a post-graduate diploma and PhD in veterinary epidemiology, the latter from the Royal Veterinary College. In 2012, I returned to the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, joining the Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases as Head of Department before serving as Dean of the faculty between 2014 and 2017. In 2018 I moved to the Centre for Veterinary Wildlife Studies where I continued my research in animal and public health, but expanded its scope to include avian and ecosystem health and issues around rural poverty. I established a collaborative network exploring the role of health and disease in the decline of of endangered bird species, particularly African penguins and vultures.
In April 2020 I joined Aberystwyth University as founding head of its new veterinary school, the first of its kind in Wales and a joint venture with the Royal Veterinary College. I am passionate about veterinary training and the role such a school and the veterinary profession can have in impacting society, not only in Wales but globally.
(1) Bovine Tuberculosis and Brucellosis:
Bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis are global zoonotic diseases that significantly impact human and animal health. I am exploring how these diseases can be better managed and eradicated. Current brucellosis projects include:
- Case control study assessing risk factors for bovine brucellosis
- Development of framework to evaluate bovine brucellosis control schemes
- Characterisation of B. melitensis in South Africa (Co-supervisor; PhD student: Baraba Glover)
Discussions are underway with colleagues in the University and in the Welsh government about establishing a TB research focus in the Veterinary School.
(2) Links between Wildlife and Poverty
Africa is rich in wildlife but many rural communities living in such areas are chronically poor and do not benefit from this resource. They might be prevented from utilizing their local wildlife, perceive them as a threat to personal safety and crops, or have their cattle trade constrained due to diseases that local wildlife carry. We seek to explore how local people perceive and utilize wildlife, how they can benefit optimally from wildlife and how younger generations can be influenced to preserve their heritage. Current projects include:
- Role of wildlife in poverty alleviation (Post doctoral researcher: Dr Bosco Kalule)
(3) Avian and Ecosystem Health
I have established an international, multidisciplinary platform to explore factors affecting the health of selected avian species and to utilize cutting-edge methodologies to understand pathogen diversity and their significance. We are also exploring the role of birds as monitors of ecosystem health and how avian demography can be used to monitor the effects of climate change or anthropogenic impacts. Current projects include:
- African penguin health:
- Epidemiology & management of HPAI in seabirds (PhD: Dr Laura Roberts)
- Survey of stakeholders’ views on African penguin conservation (MSc: Ms Takdeera Lewis)
- Epidemiology of haemoparasitism in African passerines
- Framework for evaluation of health of African raptors
- Survey of raptor rehabilitation centres in southern Africa