Thanks to an innovative research partnership, Mac and Hollister feel right at home at Trent University. While spending much of their time in the pasture, the resident alpacas have much to share about animal welfare and beneficial scientific discovery.
“Trent University has been a fantastic partner in this research,” states Dr. Shawna Wicks, CEO Talaria Antibodies Inc., a research company that produces antibodies for research and educational purposes. “Most importantly, the animal care staff is providing fantastic care for the alpacas.”
“Trent provides a home and husbandry for the animals,” said Jason Allen, manager of animal care at Trent.
Animal care expertise and research innovation
As part of the research, the alpacas undergo a process that is similar to receiving a vaccination and booster shot. Their heavy, chain-only antibodies are heat-stable and consistent, making them appropriate for therapeutic, diagnostic and research purposes.
The resulting anti-serum enables researchers to make advances in fields ranging from human health to animal science to agriculture. According to the research team, the ability to deliver the small antibodies to the lungs may be of particular and timely interest to respiratory researchers.
In addition to a suitable climate for the alpacas, Trent University provides animal care expertise, research support and facilities that meet security and cleanliness requirements. Trent is certified by provincial and federal bodies to work with animals whose care is also overseen by a local Animal Care Committee (ACC). During the pandemic lockdown personnel remained on-site to provide essential service support for the animals.
Hands-on experience for students
Mac and Hollister have lots of experiential learning to share relating to immunology and veterinary science with students in programs such as Biology, Biomedical Science and Environmental & Life Sciences. Once pandemic restrictions are lifted, students can take advantage of assisting in the research, engage with the alpaca to study animal behaviour and enrichment, or even study plant succession with pasture activity.
“Broad learning will occur through public outreach as Mac and Hollister engage with students, even those outside of related departments or courses,” predicts Mr. Allen. “People are often unaware of the great advancements in animal science for animal welfare while still meeting research goals. This work happens at Trent.”
Dr. Wicks is also excited to participate in collaborative learning at Trent.
“For students, a link with research partners can be a bridge from earning their education at Trent to continuing it in the work force,” says Mr. Allen. “In this case, I am happy to say the future looks bright in that regard.”
For more information: https://www.trentu.ca/artsci/science