Four of the WCVM's fall graduates. Clockwise (top left): Fernando Freitas, Leila Bedos, Mikayla Waller and Maria Lopez. Photos: Christina Weese.
Four of the WCVM's fall graduates. Clockwise (top left): Fernando Freitas, Leila Bedos, Mikayla Waller and Maria Lopez. Photos: Christina Weese.

WCVM graduates part of USask Fall Convocation

A group of graduate students from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) will be part of the University of Saskatchewan's Fall Convocation celebrations in November 2020.

The group of WCVM graduates represent all five of the college's departments and their research topics are diverse — ranging from equine and bovine diseases to bacterial vaginosis in women and mental illness.

Eleven students will receive their Master of Science (MSc) degrees while nine students will receive their Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees during the university's fall convocation. 

Because of restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the university's fall 2020 convocation ceremonies will be celebrated virtually on Nov. 10.

"I am always very proud of our graduate students, but I’m particularly impressed by this year’s group of fall graduates since I know many of them have had to face a number of challenges during the past eight months," said Dr. Liz Snead, the WCVM's associate dean of research and graduate studies.

In addition to the degree presentations, 14 veterinarians will receive graduate certificates marking the completion of their one-year clinical internships (rotating and specialty internships) that were completed in 2019-20 in the WCVM's Veterinary Medical Centre. 

Veterinary Microbiology

Shakya Kurukulasuriya, MSc degree
Supervisor: Dr. Janet Hill
Thesis title: “Characterization of sialidase enzymes of Gardnerella spp.”
Click here to read her thesis.

Snapshot: Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition that occurs when the healthy, Lactobacillus spp. dominated vaginal microbiota is replaced by BV-related bacteria. BV is highly prevalent in women in their reproductive age and known to be associated with preterm delivery and increased susceptibility to sexually transmitted diseases.

An abundance of Gardnerella spp. is often found in cases of symptomatic BV, although they are also found in healthy women without manifesting any signs of BV.

The results of this study contribute to knowledge of characteristics that differentiate Gardnerella spp. and to the future development of preferable diagnostics for identifying high risk microbiomes.

Tekeleselassie Ayalew Woldemariam, PhD degree
Supervisor: Dr. Suresh Tikoo
Thesis title: “Molecular characterization of bovine adenovirus-3 IVA2 protein.”

Click here to read his thesis.

Snapshot: Adenovirus is a naked icosahedral viral particle enclosing a double-stranded DNA genome. Adenoviral genes are classified as early, intermediate and late based on their duration of expression.

Adenoviruses encode two intermediate gene products, pIX and IVa2. Adenovirus IVa2 is one of the conserved proteins encoded by members of the family of Adenoviridae.

Since bovine adenovirus (BAdV)-3 IVa2 displays limited homology compared with homologs encoded by other members of Mastadenovirus genus, this study was undertaken to characterize IVa2 of BAdV-3, to identify viral protein interacting with IVa2 and to determine the role of IVa2 in the virus life cycle. 

Veterinary Biomedical Sciences

Anand Nambisan, MSc degree
Dr. Adelaine Leung
Thesis title: “Biochemical characterization of the psychiatric risk protein, disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1).”
Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) is a psychiatric disease risk gene implicated in numerous mental disorders including schizophrenia.

This thesis showcases the work done in optimizing the overexpression and purification protocols for obtaining pure DISC1 subdomains and as a stable complex illustrating its interaction with GSK3β as its protein partner.

The thesis also focuses on understanding the biochemical and biophysical characterization of DISC1 independently as well as in its complex form.

Narsimha Pujari, MSc degree
Supervisor: Dr. Adelaine Leung
Thesis title: “Crystallization of GSK3b with an inhibiting peptide of psychiatric risk factor DISC1.”
Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) is a candidate risk gene in several major mental illnesses, e.g. depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. The full-length DISC1 protein comprises of 854 amino acids. It is a scaffold protein that interacts with a very large number of other proteins, forming a sizeable protein-protein-interaction network that coordinates various stages of brain development. 

One of those important interactors is the enzyme, glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β). As a target for lithium, GSK3β itself is implicated in bipolar disorder.

This thesis focuses on the effort towards obtaining crystals for the protein complexes GSK3β-hD1 and GSK-hD1-FRATide. 

Mikayla Waller, MSc degree
Supervisor: Dr. Daniel MacPhee
Thesis title: “Characterization of NADPH oxidases in uterine smooth muscle during pregnancy.” Thesis under embargo.

Van To, PhD degree
Supervisor: Dr. Matthew Loewen
Thesis title: “Transport mechanism of methionine in the intestinal tract of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).” Thesis under embargo.

Small Animal Clinical Sciences

Leila Bedos, MSc degree
Supervisor: Dr. Lynne Sandmeyer
Thesis title: “The significance of pre-iridal monocellular membranes in dogs and those with anterior segment dysgenesis associated glaucoma, secondary glaucoma and primary glaucoma.” Thesis under embargo.

Fernando Freitas, MSc degree
Supervisors: Drs. Monique Mayer (WCVM) and Niels Koehncke (College of Medicine).
Thesis title: “Radiation safety behaviours among small animal veterinary radiography and fluoroscopy workers.”
Click here to view thesis.

Snapshot: Freitas’ thesis incorporates two different studies investigating occupational exposure to ionizing radiation in veterinary workers.

The first study evaluated the frequency of use of protective eyeglasses and gloves, and the frequency of protective behaviours (increasing distance from the body and head eye region to the radiation source), during manual restraint for radiography among small animal workers in a veterinary hospital before and after a video training module.

In the second study, the WCVM team evaluated self-reported radiation safety behaviours among small animal veterinary diplomate and resident fluoroscopy users through an electronic questionnaire.

Large Animal Clinical Sciences

Maria Lopez Rodriguez, MSc degree
Dr. Claire Card
Thesis title: “The role of glucosinolates and iodine on thyroid hormone concentrations in mares and foals.”
Click here to read an article about the WCVM team’s work.

Snapshot: Iodine is essential for producing thyroid hormone and the normal function of the thyroid gland — a key factor in metabolism and the normal development of growing animals. For horses living on the Prairies, there’s very little information about iodine levels in their serum (blood) or milk, or about their levels of selenium — a trace mineral that contributes to thyroid hormone production.

Lopez’s work showed that feeding mares certain plant compounds called glucosinolates (GSL) also interferes with their iodine uptake and utilization. GSL compounds are found in plants such as canola, mustard and rapeseed. GSL metabolites have been shown to prevent the thyroid gland as well as the mammary gland tissue from taking up iodine.

Researchers speculate that the combination of factors such as GSL in horses’ feed, nitrates in the feed and water, and low concentrations of iodine and selenium in western Canadian soil leading to deficiencies may cause primary hypothyroidism in horses — a condition that’s especially significant for pregnant mares since it may result in foals with congenital hypothyroidism dysmaturity syndrome (CHDS).

Mariana Diel de Amorim, PhD degree
Supervisor: Dr. Claire Card
Thesis title: “Role of oxytocin and oxytocinase in the maternal recognition of pregnancy.”
Click here to read an article about the WCVM team’s work.

Snapshot: Diel de Amorim’s research work focused on advancing the knowledge of the maternal recognition of pregnancy (MRP) — the signal produced by the embryo alerting the mother’s body of the pregnancy. It’s one of the earliest communications that occurs during pregnancy between the embryo and the mother. Although the MRP signal is clearly understood in other domestic species, it remains a mystery in horses.

Adam Hering, PhD degree
Supervisor: Dr. Murray Woodbury
Thesis title: “Management of Psoroptes mites in free ranging bighorn sheep.”
Click here to read his thesis.

Snapshot: In his research project, Hering addressed gaps in knowledge and provided tools to aid in the management of the psoroptic mange outbreak in bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) of British Columbia’s Okanagan region.

A multi-pronged approach was taken including outbreak investigation, development of disease detection tools, investigation of treatment options, and review of management action approaches.  

Trent Wennekamp, MSc degree
Supervisor: Dr. John Campbell
Thesis title: “Biosecurity and bovine respiratory disease on beef operations in Western Canada.”
Click here to read his thesis.

Snapshot: The association between not implementing good biosecurity practices and herd health in western Canadian cow-calf herds is not well understood. In his study, Wennekamp surveyed over 100 cow-calf producers who were part of the Western Canadian Cow-Calf Surveillance Network. Based on 81 responses, the use of standard biosecurity practices was generally low with 30 per cent of producers keeping purchased animals separate and 30 per cent vaccinating new additions. 

Wennekamp also conducted a study to describe the prevalence and antimicrobial sensitivity of three major bovine respiratory disease (BRD) bacterial pathogens from calves purchased at an auction market versus calves purchased from a single ranch source, at arrival and later in the feeding period.

Lea Riddell, MSc degree
Supervisor: Dr. Steve Manning
Thesis title: “The systemic and intrauterine effects of granulocyte-colony stimulating factor in mares.”
Click here to read more about Dr. Riddell’s research.

Snapshot: Riddell and Manning focused on a major problem in many broodmares: inflammation and/or infection of the uterus after breeding (endometritis). Treating these mares and getting them pregnant can be difficult and expensive for horse owners and breeders.

Previous research work with cattle has shown that a certain protein (granulocyte colony stimulating factor or G-CSF) helped to reduce inflammation in the bovine uterus while potentially increasing pregnancy rates. No one had ever investigated this treatment in broodmares.

The WCVM team found that G-CSF may prove to be a less invasive and cost-effective way to treat endometritis in horses. More research is needed, but the team’s preliminary results are encouraging. 

Veterinary Pathology

Sarah Greenwood, PhD degree
Supervisor: Dr. Bruce Wobeser
Thesis title: “Investigation of Equus caballus papillomavirus type-2 (EcPV-2) in asymptomatic and symptomatic horses.”
Click here to read her thesis.
Click here to read an introductory article about Dr. Greenwood’s research work, which was published in the Fall 2017 issue of Horse Health Lines.

Snapshot: Equus caballus papillomavirus type-2 (EcPV-2) has recently been recognized as a potential cause of genital squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) in horses — but little is understood about EcPV-2. Through her research work, Greenwood concluded:  

  • EcPV-2 exposure and asymptomatic infection are frequent in western Canadian horses
  • exposure likely occurs early in life
  • transmission can occur in utero as well as through non-sexual routes
  • the detection rate of EcPV-2 in SCCs is similar to that of healthy skin, but EcPV-2 infection in non-genital SCCs appears to be less 'intense' as compared to genital SCCs
  • EcPV-2 status of genital SCCs does not impact overall survival times
  • EcPV-2 infection does influence p53 expression, although not in the anticipated manner of triggering p53 proteasomal degradation

Mengying Liu, MSc degree
Supervisor: Dr. Susantha Gomis
Thesis title: “Development of an immune complex vaccine to control variant infectious bursal disease virus infection in the Canadian broiler chicken industry.” Thesis under embargo.


Katherine Raes, MSc degree
Supervisor: Markus Hecker
Thesis title: “Trophic transfer of inorganic selenium species through representative freshwater food chains.”
Click here to read thesis.

SNAPSHOT: In recent decades, there has been growing interest in the toxicodynamics of the natural element selenium (Se) and its most commonly encountered chemical species, with a notable focus on freshwater ecosystems that have shown toxicological sensitivity.

Exposure to elevated Se has uncovered an unusually narrow threshold between its biological necessity and toxicity, particularly among the most sensitive taxa for which exposure to excess Se can lead to teratogenicity and reproductive failure. Researchers have been working to discern the influence of naturally variable biogeochemical characteristics on the enrichment, transformation and trophic transfer of Se into the taxa of greatest concern.

This thesis contributes to the current understanding of Se trophic dynamics by evaluating Se trophic transfer to higher consumer species, originating from dissolved inorganic chemical species of concern.

Chelsea Voinorosky, MSc degree
Katherine Stewart
Thesis title: “The effects of targeted triclopyr application on habitat quality in boreal Saskatchewan transmission rights-of-way.”
Click here to read thesis.

SNAPSHOT: Vegetation management along transmission rights-of-way in remote northern forests across Canada is challenging. Mechanical removal of vegetation is often ineffective as many boreal species regenerate rapidly upon physical disturbance.

Limited information on herbicide impacts in northern regions and on boreal vegetation makes communicating risks and benefits to local stakeholders and Indigenous communities difficult. The indirect effects of herbicides on habitat quality in boreal ecoregions remains poorly understood.

Working in collaboration with SaskPower and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, the influence of targeted applications of the herbicides, Garlon RTU and Garlon XRT (active ingredient triclopyr) were studied in northern Saskatchewan. 

Abigail DeBofsky, PhD degree
Supervisor: Dr. John Giesy
Thesis title: “Characterization of the impacts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on the fish gut microbiome.” Thesis under embargo. 

Vanessa Cowan, PhD degree
Supervisors: Drs. Barry Blakley and Jaswant Singh
Thesis title: “Investigation of the subclinical toxicological effects of ergot alkaloid mycotoxin (Claviceps purpurea) exposure in beef cows and bulls.”
Click here to read thesis. 

SNAPSHOT: Cowan examined the effects of ergot alkaloid mycotoxins on vascular and reproductive systems in beef cows and bulls. Ergot alkaloids are toxic secondary metabolites produced by the pathogenic plant fungus Claviceps purpurea.

Ergot alkaloids are commonly occurring adulterating toxins in livestock feed and constitute a great concern for the health of animals that consume such feeds. Consumption of these toxins can cause a broad suite of pathophysiological effects. Relevant and up-to-date scientific information on ergotism in livestock is largely unavailable to address this growing issue.

The purpose of this research was to better characterize and understand the effects of ergot alkaloids in Canadian beef cattle and to ascertain concentrations at which these effects may occur.

Frederico Leal, PhD degree
Supervisor: Dr. Lynn Weber
Thesis title: “Persistence of benzo(a)pyrene disruption of cardiac function, metabolism and gene expression in rainbow trout and zebrafish.” Thesis under embargo.

Erin Maloney, PhD degree
Supervisors: Karsten Liber and Christy Morrissey
Thesis title: “Cumulative toxicities of neonicotinoid insecticides and their mixtures to sensitive freshwater insects.”
Click here to read thesis.

SNAPSHOT: Neonicotinoids are neurotoxic insecticides that are commonly applied to combat agricultural pests. Due to widespread application and select physicochemical characteristics, mixtures of different neonicotinoids are frequently detected in freshwater environments. This is of potential concern because these freshwater habitats are populated with ecologically important benthic macroinvertebrates (for example, Chironomidae), which are markedly sensitive to neonicotinoid compounds.

The objectives of this research were to:

  • evaluate acute and chronic toxicities of three commonly used neonicotinoids (imidacloprid (IMI), clothianidin (CLO), and thiamethoxam (TMX)) and their mixtures to Chironomidae using Chironomus dilutus as a representative test species
  • validate single compound and neonicotinoid mixture toxicity predictions to Chironomidae populations under field settings
  • identify mechanisms behind species’ life stage and compound-specific differences in neonicotinoid toxicity for these sensitive aquatic insects

Clinical Internships

Graduate certificate in small animal rotating veterinary internship

  • Miriam Grace Bates
  • Adrien Dupanloup
  • Wan-Chu Hung
  • Ching Ching Shirley Kot
  • Ming Lu
  • Celina Yukari Morimoto
  • Jun-Yan Sek
  • Pei-Tsz Shin
  • Alejandra Tellez

Graduate certificate in small animal specialty veterinary internship

  • Daniel Moreno Reyes
  • Antonietta Lisa Moritz
  • Matthew Robert Siddle
  • Shannon Vanessa Toy
  • Parker Allen Wilcox
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