The red wolf, despite its controversial status, is the only native North American wolf species and is critically endangered. Only a few hundred remain, the majority in captivity. One challenge for those trying to save this species is the overall lack of genetic diversity and an associated increased risk of inherited disease. Researchers at NC State have detailed a form of blindness that appears to be concentrated in certain family groups and affects males more than females. Because of the potential for future wild release of this species, it is critical to establish the underlying cause of this blindness in order to prevent deaths due to starvation or the failure to successfully breed. In this presentation, you will learn a little about the genetic (and practical) challenges of working with a critically endangered species, and a lot about the visual system and the impact of blindness on the lives of both animals and humans.
About the speaker
Dr. Freya Mowat, BVSc PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University. She completed her veterinary studies at the University of Bristol, her doctorate in Molecular Genetics from University College London (Institute of Ophthalmology), and her post-doctoral fellowship at Michigan State University, studying inherited forms of blindness in dogs and exploring translational therapies relevant to humans. She currently studies spontaneous and inherited forms of blindness and aging of the neurosensory retina in companion dogs.