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Feb. 18: Zoo nutritionist shares how big data helps exotic animals stay healthy

Bissell holding sloth at zoo.
Heidi Bissell will share insights from her work with data that helps improve zoo animal health at the 2020 Halver Lecture in Animal Nutrition.

Exotic animal nutritionist Heidi Bissell will give the annual Halver Lecture in Comparative Nutrition, hosted by Washington State University’s Department of Animal Sciences, Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Pullman campus.

Bissell’s talk, “What’s for Dinner? Big Data & Comparative Nutrition to Improve Exotic Health,” begins at 5 p.m. in 203 CUE.

An animal nutritionist for SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, Bissell uses science to improve the diet, health, and welfare of animals in zoos and parks. In her research, Halver asks questions like, ‘Do dolphins on high fat diets have different health outcomes than dolphins on low-fat diets? ‘

At the Halver Lecture, she’ll talk about how she compared health and diet data from more than 17,000 animals, including herbivores, carnivores, fruit- and fish-eaters, to optimize their varied diets. Her discussion includes marine mammals, sloths, primates, and armadillos.

“I want my audience to walk away with an appreciation for zoos as data resources,” she said. “Zoo data directly helps us conserve animals in the wild, and offers amazing insights into human and animal nutrition.”

The Halver Lecture honors the late John Halver, a comparative nutritionist who made significant contributions to animal and human nutrition. Admission to the Halver Lecture is free.

The Department of Animal Sciences offers undergraduate and graduate education, and conducts research and extension outreach that benefits animals, agriculture, and human health. Learn more about animal sciences at the department website.