Joanna Borucinska, PhD, DVM
Bio Chem Building 160E
PhD University of Connecticut | DVM Agricultural Academy of Warsaw
I am a veterinary surgeon and pathologist by training, but I call myself an environmental scientist interested in the preservation of life. My research interests are rooted in personal experiences with environmental degradation linked to human and animal neoplastic diseases colloquially known as cancer. These interests were expanded by my love for nature and animals and by a desire to contribute to their preservation. And so it was that the last 14 years were spent on collecting data that would enable us to understand the etiopathology of diseases as well as the response to environmental challenges in sharks. The environmental challenges that I am interested in are pathogens and anthropogenic activities. While I define the preservation of sharks as my broader goal of research, the really wide goal is to preserve the natural environment on Earth. This latter through building our awareness how anthropogenic environmental changes translate into health parameters, which hopefully will influence human behaviors towards more sustainable practices. Through my research on the correlation between health and environmental pollution I would like to clarify the impact of the widespread use of technology, including that of fossil fuels combustion, on the health of animals in natural habitats. The need for such studies stems from the fact that although toxicity of numerous industrial chemicals has been established in laboratory experiments, the significance of laboratory results for animals exposed in nature is unclear. To clarify this significance, one has to gather data basic, impartial data on the effects of mixtures of contaminants on the health of animals in the wild.
Luckily for me, a great body of knowledge on anatomy, physiology and health exists for bony fish, so although I entered a vastly unexplored field of the health status of free ranging sharks, I had several points of reference to rely on. My luck did not end there: several other lucky circumstances facilitated my actions including the possibility of collaboration with scientists from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA at the shark tournaments in the Northeast, funds available locally to support science at small primarily teaching institution, and a network of collaborators, mostly parasitologists, that provide me with exciting material to study. Lastly, I have access to sharks killed at fishing tournaments; although I oppose these events morally and scientifically, I feel obliged to use these sharks so we can learn the most about their biology and diseases, and hopefully use this knowledge to mandate shark protection in the future.