University Scholars Spotlight: Sydney Tejml and Emma Haschke

The post below is shared by University Scholars Sydney Tejml ’20 from Hutto, TX, and Emma Hasche ’21 from Austin, TX, describing a summer experience abroad supported in part by a travel award from Honors.

– by Sydney Tejml and Emma Haschke

Over the course of this summer, we were given the incredible opportunity to journey to the Limpopo Province of South Africa. There we learned alongside fourteen other undergraduate, graduate, and veterinary students about African wildlife medicine. This course went far beyond the average summer class. Not only did we receive lectures from wildlife management specialists and world renowned wildlife veterinarians, but we we worked alongside them in the field.

For about two weeks we were exposed to a multitude of species including, but not limited to: giraffes, African elephants, white rhinos, and greater kudu. We assisted in rhino horn devaluation procedures, transport of young giraffes from one ranch to another, administering vaccinations to small carnivores in a zoo setting, and relocation of zebra and cape buffalo. We also participated in a necropsy of a small duiker who had been accidentally been stepped on by another, much larger, animal.

During the trip, we learned about the pharmacology of African wildlife medicine and how to chemically immobilize the animals properly. We spent an entire day learning about the types of darts, the types of dart guns, and practicing how to load and shoot the dart guns. We even practiced darting out of a helicopter like the wildlife veterinarians do! We became especially good at running through the bushveld after darted animals, checking vital signs, drawing blood, injecting antibiotics, and inserting microchips.

Over time, we learned the differences between handling different species. For example, the white rhino does not bode well under chemical immobilization. They must be given a partial reversal and oxygen to improve their respiration rate. They must also be constantly sprayed down with water to prevent them from overheating.

Sydney Tejml with a baby white rhino after a horn devaluation procedure

On the last few days of the trip, our group headed north to Botswana. There, we stayed at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary to ear notch several baby white rhinos. However, due to the extremely cold weather, the rhinos were not accessible in the African bushveld. Instead we toured the savannah by taking a safari around the sanctuary. Later in the day, we participated in another necropsy, one of an elderly giraffe.

Near sunset, we learned how to use radio telemetry to locate an animal with a collar. However, our practice run went longer than expected. We searched in the bush for over an hour before it became dark. We were forced to abandon our efforts and return to find the practice collar the next morning.

This trip was very influential to us as future veterinarians because we were able to experience a fascinating branch of veterinary medicine. We chose the destination of South Africa so we could see the field of African wildlife medicine in its birthplace and experience the wildlife in their natural habitat. We were also exposed to a new culture in a country with a very dark recent history. Being able to make connections with the native people of South Africa broadened our horizons to new cultures and ideologies.

Sydney Tejml, Emma Haschke, and Caroline Jennings zip-lining on a day off

However, choosing to study abroad in a country so far away was difficult monetarily. Thanks to the UScholars Travel Award, we were both able to pay for the vast majority of our flights to and from South Africa. This extra boost helped us immensely with the costs of the program and reduced our stress about finances, since our transportation was now covered. We both recommend taking the chance to study abroad as a UScholar. Not only does this enable you to try an exciting area of your field, but it allows you to do so in a hands-on, practical manner. Studying abroad also gives you the chance to learn about different cultures, try new foods, and go on the adventure of a lifetime, all while continuing to pursue your degree.

Below are a few more photos of our experiences abroad!

Sydney Tejml ’20 drawing blood from a vein in the ear of an African elephant
Emma Haschke ’21 checking the pulse of a baby white rhino
Emma Haschke ’21 putting a sample of white rhino hairs into a tube for genetic testing.
Emma Haschke ’21 (left) and Sydney Tejml ’20 (right) with an African elephant after putting a tracking collar on her

The University Honors Program is able to support enriching activities such as this one through the generous support of The Association of Former Students and individual contributions. If you are interested in supporting Honors, please visit http://give.am/LAUNCH

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