David R. Blasko is currently Director of Animal Care at The Mirage Hotel & Casino. David as past Director of Animal Operations at Six Flags Marine World, was responsible for all aspects of the care and husbandry for a diverse collection of more than 3,000 mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates of the land, sea and air. Species in his charge included African and Asian elephants, killer whales, bottlenose dolphins, Pacific walruses, California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals, Bengal tigers, mountain lions, primates, giraffes Magellanic penguins, hornbills, a variety of raptors, parrots and other birds, sharks, coral, warm- and cold-water fish and invertebrates, butterflies, white-throated monitor lizards and lesser anteaters, among others.
Blasko began his career at Sea World of Ohio, and came to the Six Flags Marine World park (then Marine World Africa USA) in 1982, serving as Elephant Training Supervisor for 20 years. A respected consultant on elephant care, training and safety for other zoos, government agencies (USDA/APHIS, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, California Fish & Game, etc.), and to private owners, Blasko is past president of the national Elephant Managers Association and an instructor for the Principles of Elephant Management School of the American Zoo & Aquarium Association. He served on the steering committee of the Asian and African Elephant Species Survival Program management group, helping preserve elephants in zoos and in the wild.
During his tenure at Marine World, Blasko and the elephants in his charge participated in groundbreaking efforts to establish and refine artificial insemination techniques and procedures for African elephants. Scientific studies benefiting elephants in zoos and in the wild, including work with elephant foot care, dental care, ultrasonic communication, chemical communication, locomotion, DNA analysis, and pioneering veterinary care procedures including infrared light treatments were among Blasko’s cooperative research efforts at Six Flags Marine World. He presented papers on elephant care at numerous Elephant Managers Association and American Zoo and Aquarium Association conferences.
Blasko is on the Board of Directors of The International Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and a past board member of the International Elephant Foundation. He is past president of the Elephant Managers Association and a professional member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. Blasko holds a Wildlife Law Enforcement certificate from the California Department of Fish & Game.
Dr. Robert Dale
Robert H. I. Dale, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology at Butler University, where he was department head for 6 years. He teaches undergraduate psychology courses on animal learning and evolutionary psychology, and an honors course on elephants. In the past he has examined several aspects of animal learning and memory, and of human memory. Bob has studied elephant memory and social behaviors at the Indianapolis Zoo for over 10 years – with his students completing 4 Butler Summer Institute Research Fellowships and two honors theses. Dr. Dale has served on several committees and participated in Project Elephant at the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. His bachelor’s degrees are in physics (McGill University, Canada) and psychology (Oxford University, England), and his master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology were earned at Dalhousie University (Canada) and the University of Western Ontario (Canada), respectively. His postdoctoral fellowship was at Duke University (USA).
Dr. Elizabeth Freeman
Dr. Freeman is an Assistant Professor of Conservation Studies in New Century College at George Mason University (GMU). Elizabeth received a B.S. in Biology from Vanderbilt University, a M.S. in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy from George Mason University. She is a behavioral endocrinologist whose interests involve conducting innovative research that generates data that can be used to enhance the reproductive success of endangered species and aid conservation management of both in situ and ex situ populations. As such, she has over 10 years of experience conducting behavioral analyses on a wide range of species from a parasitic wasp to elephants and rhinos. This includes experience conducting elephant and black rhino research in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa. Dr. Freeman is an affiliated faculty member to the Zoo and Aquarium Leadership graduate program, the Mason Center of Conservation Studies, and the Environmental Science & Policy department at GMU. She also holds a Research Associate position with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). Elizabeth enjoys teaching conservation courses and sharing her passion for wildlife while mentoring undergraduate and graduate students.
Dr. Robert Hunter
Rob Hunter is the Manager of Regulatory Affairs with Provetica Animal Health. He received his B.S. in Animal Science from Angelo State University, a M.S. in Veterinary Physiology from the Texas A&M University, and a Ph.D. in Veterinary Pharmacology from Louisiana State University. Since completing his Ph.D. he worked as an Assistant Professor of Veterinary Pharmacology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University prior to joining Elanco Animal Health, here he held various roles in R&D and Regulatory Affairs.
He became the Chief Scientific Officer at Parnell and was responsible for R&D, Regulatory, Clinical Sciences, and Business Development. In his role at Provetica, Rob is responsible for all animal studies and regulatory interactions.
He has authored over 70 peer reviewed manuscripts and book chapters, of which more than half are related to zoological and elephant pharmacology. He is currently a member of the Elephant Stakeholder Steering Committee on tuberculosis. He has previously served on the Indianapolis Zoo and Topeka Zoo Research Boards and as a reviewer for AZA CEF grants. Rob is also a member of the Editorial Boards for the Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology & Therapeutics and the Journal of Zoo & Wildlife Medicine.
Paul D Ling received a PhD in Microbiology and spent his graduate and postdoctoral careers investigating human herpesviruses Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) and Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) respectively. He continued his work on EBV and other animal gammaherpesviruses after moving to Houston and Baylor College of Medicine to start his own research program. In 2010, following the death of Mac at the Houston zoo from EEHV, a collaboration was established between the Houston zoo and Dr. Lings’ lab to address the devastating disease caused by this virus, especially in Asian elephant calves. Since that time, his laboratory has leveraged its experience and knowledge of human herpesviruses to combat the threat of EEHV in elephants.
His lab developed qPCR tests to detect all EEHV species known to be endemic within both African and Asian elephants. These tests are used for surveillance of elephants in the United States, Africa and several countries in South East Asia. With a grant from IEF, his lab used these new tests to show that elephants in Southern India shed the same species of EEHV found in captive elephants in the United States. His lab, along with collaborators at the Houston zoo, also used the qPCR tests to describe EEHV viremia, shedding, and associated changes in CBCs during the course of EEHV-associated hemorrhagic disease. Along with his collaborators at Johns Hopkins (Dr. Gary Hayward) and the Baylor College of Medicine Human genome sequencing center, his lab determined the genomic sequence of EEHV1A, the most deadly form of EEHV in Asian elephants, and also EEHV4. More recently, his lab developed an Asian elephant-specific IFN-g Elispot assay for the purpose of interrogating anti-EEHV T-cell responses and a novel serology assay that can distinguish antibody responses between different the EEHV types in Asian elephants. These tools have formed a foundation for developing and evaluating an EEHV vaccine, which his laboratory is currently focused on producing. Dr. Ling previously served as Secretary of the Epstein-Barr virus association and chaired the Microbial Pathogenesis and Cancer study section for the American Cancer Society. He is currently an Associate Professor (with tenure) in the Department of Microbiology and Virology at Baylor College of Medicine, a member of the EEHV advisory group Steering committee and is also an Associate Editor of Plos Pathogens.
As IEF Advisor and Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus expert, Dr. Paul Ling postulated during a recent interview.
Dr. Wendy Kiso is the Director of Conservation and Research at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Center for Elephant Conservation. She obtained her B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Irvine. She is a graduate of the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College, after which she received a Master of Natural and Applied Science degree from Missouri State University. Dr. Kiso received her Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Public Policy at George Mason University in partnership with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C. Currently, she is responsible for conducting and collaborating on all conservation and research projects towards the biology and care of the endangered Asian elephant.
Harry Peachey began his career with elephants at the Indianapolis zoo in 1974 and began working at the Columbus Zoo in 1976. In 1987, Harry was promoted to the Zoo’s Elephant Manager and Head keeper of Pachyderms. During his cumulative of almost 40 years of experience with captive elephant management, Harry has worked with both Asian and African elephants, including males of both species. During his tenure at the Columbus Zoo, Harry has traveled to both Asia and Africa, often in conjunction with in situ conservation projects that have received support from the Columbus Zoo, and has been fortunate enough to come into contact with both wild and “domesticated” elephants.
In April of 1998, he spent several weeks in Indonesia, a portion of his time in Jakarta meeting with government officials in both the CITES Office and the Department of Forestry. In April of 2000, Harry served on the Steering Committee for a meeting held in Bogor, Indonesia to review the problems facing elephant conservation in Sumatra. Since his return from Indonesia and his exposure to the difficult circumstances confronting both the Elephant Training Centers and in situ elephant conservation in Sumatra, issues which have been complicated by the economic crisis in Asia, Harry has been actively involved in fundraising to support veterinary care for Sumatra’s captive elephant population. Harry has also served as an elephant consultant to several other zoos. Harry served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Elephant Manager’s Association, and is currently a member of the AZA Elephant TAG/SSP Management Group.
Heidi Riddle is the co-founder and Director of Operations at Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary, a unique Arkansas nonprofit organization dedicated to both Asian and African elephants. It is the first and only facility to accept any elephant in need, and to provide them with a peaceful, permanent refuge. The sanctuary is a well-respected international leader in elephant management, education and conservation.
Ms. Riddle developed and instructs at the annual international School for Elephant Management attended by elephant handlers from institutions worldwide. Ms. Riddle also co-founded the annual Elephant Ultrasound Workshop for wildlife veterinarians. In 2001, Ms. Riddle was invited to join the Asian Elephant Specialist Group of the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The group’s mission is to work toward’s conservation of Asian elephants worldwide.
Dr. Bruce Schulte
IEF Science Advisor Biography Bruce A. Schulte 2020
Dr. Bruce A. Schulte is the Associate Vice-President for Strategy, Performance and Accountability at Western Kentucky University (WKU). He also is a University Distinguished Professor. For ten years, he was the Department Head of Biology at WKU. Previously, he was a professor at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia and before that at Providence College in Rhode Island. He received his B.S. in Biology from the College of William and Mary, his M.S. from the University of Southern California, and his Ph.D. at the State University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry. His doctoral work was on the behavior of the North American beaver. He studies with Dr. Dietland Müller-Schwarze, who was a student of Nobel Laurette Konrad Lorenz. Dr. Schulte conducted his postdoctoral work on chemical communication in Asian elephants with Dr. Bets Rasmussen. This team included organic chemist Dr. Thomas Goodwin from Hendrix College. After Bets passed away in 2006, Tom and Bruce continued to work together until Tom retired in 2017. Bruce Schulte also has a long-term collaboration with fellow IEF science advisor Dr. Elizabeth Freeman.
Dr. Bruce Schulte has been studying elephant chemical communication and conservation behavior for the past 25 years. His research has occurred at facilities housing elephants throughout North America and in elephant range countries in Africa. He had long-term projects involving graduate and undergraduate students at Addo Elephant National Park and the Associated Private Nature Reserves bordering Kruger National Park in South Africa, in Tanzania near Arusha and in western Tanzania at Katavi National Park, in Zambia and Zimbabwe, and currently in the greater Tsavo region of Kenya. The latest project brings together much of what we have learned about elephants and explores more that we need to know about elephants and farming in Africa to facilitate a harmonious coexistence between humans and elephants. Elephants and Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya is the project supported by the Earthwatch Institute and IEF in which we are examining Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices, deterrent methods (also in conjunction with Save the Elephants – Elephants and Bees Project), ecological correlates of elephant crop raiding, and elephant behavior (see the IEF video). This project would be impossible without the wonderful collaboration of Wildlife Works, a REDD+ program management and development company, their Biodiversity Director, Dr. Mwangi Githiru, and field scientists Bernard Amakobe and Simon Kasaine. We also collaborate with Dr. Urbanus Mutwiwa at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Graduate students at WKU (Lynn von Hagen, now a doctoral candidate at Auburn University; Sophia Corde) are instrumental in the success of this research as are the numerous citizen scientists involved through Earthwatch. Bruce is delighted to be a scientific advisor for IEF and invites everyone to contact him about his research on elephants or questions regarding research that might be supported by IEF.
Laura v.d. Meer, Esq.
Laura is an environmental lawyer-lobbyist currently serving as the Director of International Environmental Resources SPRL, located in Brussels, Belgium. Laura specializes in the field of international environmental law and policy, focusing on multilateral environmental agreements concerning in situ and ex situ conservation, international movement of endangered species, access to genetic resources, alien species, biosafety, and biotechnology. For over ten years, Laura has assisted companies, associations and non-profits to access and address issues of concern at international conferences including CITES, the convention on Biological Diversity, and the Aarhus Convention on Public Information and Participation in Environmental Matters. Laura’s work also includes providing assistance to institutes and organizations engaged in public display of animals concerning regulations and legislative developments in the European Community and its 25 Member States.
She currently serves as the Permanent Representative of the European Circus Association in Brussels. Prior to establishing her consulting company, Laura practiced law for 8 years with the firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.C. in its Washington DC and Brussels offices. With this expertise, Laura has represented the International Elephant Foundation for the last four years at CITES conferences and related meetings.
In addition to her law degree from the Marshall Wythe School of Law and the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, Laura has a Masters in Educational Administration from the University of Missouri, bringing a background in education to IEF.