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Animal nutritionist to share insights on conservation, education at Halver Lecture

Mark Edwards, formerly of the San Diego and Smithsonian National zoos, will talk about animal nutrition at the annual Halver Lecture, Monday, Oct. 26.
Mark Edwards, formerly of the San Diego and Smithsonian National zoos, will talk about animal nutrition at the annual Halver Lecture, Monday, Oct. 26.

Animal nutritionist Mark Edwards, formerly of the Smithsonian and San Diego zoos, will share insights in an upcoming talk hosted by the WSU Department of Animal Sciences.

Edwards, now a professor at California Polytechnic Institute, gives the John E. Halver Lecture in Comparative Nutrition at 3:10 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, at the Johnson Hall Auditorium, C107.

His talk, “Adventures in Adaptation,” explores how species adapt to new environments and diets, and how his own life and work have adapted to new professional opportunities.

“Students interested in animals of all kinds have an opportunity to hear from an expert in comparative nutrition,” said Margaret Benson, WSU Animal Sciences professor.

Using science to save animals

A comparative animal nutritionist for more than 20 years, Edwards helped introduced science-based nutrition practices to the conservation and education programs at the San Diego and Smithsonian National zoos. At each place, he ensured that the food that zoo animals ate, and the edible parts of their environments, were safe for them.

Edwards also took part in reintroduction efforts for California condors and San Clemente loggerhead shrikes, setting up feeding programs to encourage chicks to learn how to be wild birds.

He worked with partners in China to improve management and feeding that helped pandas and their babies.

“Their survivability has increased so much that they’ve had to build new facilities to house all the cubs,” he said. Reintroduction programs for those pandas are now being explored.

Of interest to animal sciences students, Edwards said, is how his foundation with domesticated species helped him work with wild animals.

“The core information we use to manage endangered species is based on domestic animal work,” Edwards said. “When you’re formulating a feeding program for a giraffe or a rhinoceros, you’re looking at work that’s been done on cattle and horses.”

The annual Halver Lecture, hosted by the WSU Department of Animal Sciences, brings internationally recognized speakers in animal nutrition to WSU. It is funded by an endowment established by the late John E. Halver, a WSU alumnus and fish biochemist.

Following the lecture, students can visit with Edwards in an informal question and answer session and learn about career opportunities.

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