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Exploring Opportunities to Modernize Ontario's Approach to Wildlife Health Through Understanding Literature, Stakeholders, Networks, Legislation, and Policy

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Title: Exploring Opportunities to Modernize Ontario's Approach to Wildlife Health Through Understanding Literature, Stakeholders, Networks, Legislation, and Policy
Author: Sinclair, Diana
Department: Department of Pathobiology
Program: Pathobiology
Advisor: Jardine, Claire
Abstract: This thesis explores opportunities to modernize how the concept of health is applied to wildlife, using the wildlife health field in Ontario, Canada, as an example. A scoping literature review (458 papers) revealed that wildlife health publications looked at health as the absence of disease (56%, n=257), in an unclear context (37%, n=171), and as a multifactorial entity (7%, n=30). An opportunity exists in the wildlife health literature to consider health and its determinants more broadly, instead of focusing heavily on disease. To understand how different wildlife experts defined wildlife health, eight focus group meetings were used to collect data from stakeholders (biologists, ecologists, veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, and hunters and trappers). Thematic analysis demonstrated that there was no single, shared definition of health for wildlife, not even within a stakeholder group. Despite this, all stakeholders saw wildlife health as being multifactorial (i.e., affected by many health determinants). Problems facing wildlife are often highly complex, requiring expertise from many areas. We used ego-centric social network analysis to examine how practitioners shared information between professions and organizations within the Ontario wildlife health network. Analysis of 55 practitioner ego-networks revealed low levels of tie dispersion and high levels of ego-alter similarity. An opportunity exists for wildlife health practitioners to participate in greater sharing of wildlife health information across professional and institutional boundaries. We reviewed legislation and policy guiding Ontario wildlife health (100 documents) to characterize how concepts of health have been applied to wildlife and to assess whether documents enable or prohibit taking a multifactorial health approach. No document defined wildlife health, stated how to measure it, or provided a threshold at which “health” is met. No document outlined bringing information on different health determinants together or sharing wildlife health information between different stakeholders, beyond information on one determinant. An opportunity exists for wildlife health legislation and policy to include context-specific definitions for wildlife health, specify how health is to be measured, and to outline integration of different wildlife health drivers. Doing so will make communicating findings across disciplines and perspectives easier and increase our ability to inform and improve wildlife health management.
Date: 2020-05
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