Sydney veterinary science professor researches nutritional ecology

24 July 2014

“Nutritional ecology is so central to every aspect of life that it should be considered a foundational part of biology in the same way evolution is,” said Professor David Raubenheimer, the first chair appointed to the Charles Perkins Centre.
This past June, Professor Raubenheimer from the Sydney Faculty of Veterinary Science presented the JD Stewart lecture and outline from his research and that of collaborators what nutritional ecologists are discovering as they investigate how nutrients influence the relationships between animals and their environment, from an ecological and evolutionary perspective.

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Professor Raubenheimer has conducted groundbreaking research around the globe studying animals from gorillas to pandas, from sea otters to great white sharks, snow leopards and elephants.
His path was set when, as a master’s student, he studied butterflies which exclusively fed on cyanide-producing plants. There was extensive literature written on plant toxicology but very little on the nutrients the plants provided to the animals feeding on them. The term nutritional ecology was coined in the 1980s when the importance of how animals access and use nutrients began to be understood.
“Food influences everything we do. Nutrients impact on just about every aspect of an animal’s life, from reproduction to growth, resistance to disease, vulnerability to predators and, ultimately, lifespan,” said the Sydney Faculty of Veterinary Science professor.
Starting with examples from lab studies, and then showing how the concept of nutritional geometry helps us understand the behaviour of animals in the wild, including monkeys, baboons, gorillas and orangutans, Professor Raubenheimer will conclude by comparing the nutritional ecology of humans to these other primates.
“This new perspective can help us to understand why in recent years humans have accumulated levels of body fat unprecedented in history,” said Professor Raubenheimer.
As the Leonard P Ullmann Chair in Nutritional Ecology at the Charles Perkins Centre Professor Raubenheimer works with the Sydney Faculty of Veterinary Science and School of Biological Sciences.
He builds links between each of these disciplines with the motivation, inherent in nutritional ecology, that research on animals and humans can be of mutual benefit.
JD Stewart is remembered as an inspirational founding member of Australia’s veterinary profession and is honoured as the Sydney Faculty of Veterinary Science‘s first Dean through the annual JD Stewart Address.

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The Sydney DVM aims to produce career ready graduates with excellent fundamental knowledge and skills in managing animal health and disease; and in protecting and advancing animal, human and environmental health and welfare locally and globally.
The program encourages enrolment of students from diverse backgrounds and aims to help them achieve their goals to become veterinary medical professionals in the global community. Teaching is research-driven to ensure students learn from the latest developments and advances in evidence-based practice, veterinary science research, animal behaviour and welfare science and veterinary public health. Students benefit from a fully integrated learning curriculum with clinical exposure, clinical skills training and animal handling commencing in the first semester and throughout the course. Studies will take place in the one health framework, ensuring students understand the linkages between veterinary health, human medicine and the environment at local, national and global levels. The program culminates in a capstone experience year where students will be placed as an intern in veterinary clinics of all varieties and in a wide range of locations, including rotations in the university teaching hospitals at Sydney and Camden.
Program title: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Semester intake: March 2015
Program duration: 4 years
Application deadline: October 31, 2014

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