Arizona VetCats Explore the Sonoran Desert

Feb. 1, 2023

Recently, our first-year University of Arizona VetCats got to know the local wildlife at the AZA-accredited Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum here in Tucson.

A group of around 55 veterinary students pose together outside the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.

Recently, our first-year University of Arizona VetCats got to know the local wildlife at the AZA-accredited Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum here in Tucson. Exposure to various specialties, including specialties in exotic and wildlife medicine, gives students opportunities to gain a holistic understanding of veterinary medicine and offers insight for those who plan to make zoo and wildlife medicine their career. Experiences like these expose students to the important work conservation organizations accomplish. Craig Ivanyi, Executive Director of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum shared, 

“We are so excited to be partnering with the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine. This program is an incredible asset to this community and to organizations like the Desert Museum, all of which rely on top-flight veterinary care to keep animals healthy and happy. All animals deserve the best possible care to support their wellbeing, whether they are pets in the home, or wild animals at a conservation organization like the Museum, which works to preserve the biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert region.” 

Five veterinary students and one professor stand in front of a bobcat enclosure, in which a bobcat naps on a ledge.

At the Desert Museum, our VetCats gained insight into the animals that make our Sonoran Desert region unique. They attended five rotations throughout the museum, getting to know mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and even arachnids. Students began their rotations by learning about an unexpected animal: the stingray! Desert Museum staff shared intriguing insight into stingray anatomy, habitat, and behavior. In the second rotation, students met the museum’s Certified Veterinary Technician and encountered the unique tools and preparation that go into caring for animals of all shapes and sizes. Hummingbirds flitted around another rotation as students examined hummingbird nests and learned about the habits and needs of these bejeweled birds. 

Our students learned from the individuals who work closely with these animals daily and had ample opportunities to ask specific questions about the animals and their care. This insight is invaluable for students who hope to work with animals like these in their future careers. Kira Carhart, a first-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student, said, “I actually want to go into zoo medicine, so this trip is perfect.” Exposure like this helps students generate new ideas about how they might apply their learning in real-life conservation efforts.  

Two veterinary students examine a hummingbird nest in a small jar.

The College of Veterinary Medicine provides unique learning experiences for students and allows them to explore various facets of veterinary medicine before they graduate as well-rounded, day-one-ready veterinarians. Gaining real-life insight into conservation efforts in our own Tucson area gives our students a greater appreciation and awareness of area wildlife and of conservation organizations like the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.