Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins  from Murdoch University in Perth Australia.

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    Dr Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins
    BSc BVMS CertAVP(zm) PhD Dip ECZM (Wildlife population health)

    Senior Lecturer in Wildlife and Conservation Medicine

    About me

    I am a Senior Lecturer in Wildlife and Conservation Medicine here at Murdoch, and I am involved in teaching and supervision of undergraduate and postgraduate students in Zoological, Wildlife and Conservation Medicine.  Previously I have worked as a clinical veterinarian at Perth Zoo post completing the John Howell combined Murdoch and Perth Zoo residency in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine which was combined with a PhD titled ‘ Epidemiological Aspects of Health Management of Gilbert’s Potoroo (Potorous gilbertii), which at the time was Australia’s most critically endangered mammal.  This collaborative study involved epidemiology, population ecology, population biology, conservation medicine, microbiology, parasitology, serology, DNA sequencing and primer design to discover a novel Treponema organism linked with reproductive dysfunction, a novel tick sp., a novel rickettsiae sp., and a novel Pasteurella sp.  This thesis presented baseline blood, cloacal microbiology and urinalysis values and outlined a novel and most importantly, practical, translocation health screening protocol to aid in the ongoing management of the species.

    I have a strong interest in endangered species conservation and translocation and have worked internationally as a Veterinary Officer for the Species Recovery Programme at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) – London Zoo.  In this role I was primarily involved in Disease Risk Analysis and wild animal health surveillance for a range of in-situ and ex-situ populations of species, and for sympatric species when necessary.  I investigated the impact of interventions, for example reintroductions, on the health of populations and the welfare of individuals and prevented the importation of alien disease to the UK.  I was involved in pre and post-release health surveillance through clinical examination and collection of appropriate diagnostic specimens, captive breeding, rearing and wild population management including the development of appropriate quarantine and biosecurity protocols, enclosure design, treatment and clinical investigation if indicated, and the determination of causes of morbidity and mortality through pathological investigation.  At this time I also tutored in the Masters of Science in Wild Animal Health and Biology, a collaborative partnership between the ZSL and the Royal Veterinary College.   I enjoy research and thrive on the ‘real world’ challenges often faced in this emerging field. I have also achieved both clinical and research based postgraduate qualifications including the CertAVP Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons certificate in Zoological Medicine, and Diplomat status in the European College of Zoological Medicine – Wildlife Population Health specialty.

    Teaching area

    • VET616 – DVM Project
    • VET636 – Avian, Exotic Pet and Wildlife Medicine
    • VET 630 – Small Animal Practice 1 -Wildlife and Exotic Pet Core Clinical Rotation (previously VET530 Wildlife and Zoo Medicine Core Clinical Rotation);
    • VET 645- Wildlife Stream
    • VET 664- Wildlife Comparative Pathology

    Awards and grants

    • Wildlife Health Australia to further investigate exposure of free-ranging Carnaby’s cockatoos to anti-acetylcholinesterase  (anti-AChe) compounds associated with mortality and to establish baseline reference ranges of AChe in plasma in brain in Carnaby’s cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) December 2012
    • Houghton Trust Travel Grant for Avian Disease Research to attend and present at the European Wildlife Disease Association Conference in September 2010
    • August 2006 – Australian Post-graduate Award Scheme scholarship and upgrade from a Masters of Philosophy in Zoo & Wildlife Medicine to a Conservation Medicine based PhD on a health and disease study of the Gilbert’s potoroo.  Commenced full-time PhD studies post completion of Perth Zoo Residency in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine.
    • May 2005 awarded Perth Zoo in-situ conservation grant towards investigating the significance of a Treponema-like organism isolated from the Gilbert’s potoroo


    Professional and community service

    I sit on the education committee for the European College of Zoological Medicine, which involves approving both residents and residency training programmes in all sub-specialties of the ECZM and the monitoring of residents progress throughout their studies to achieve Diplomat status.

    Doctoral and masters supervisions

    Current PhD students

    • Erina Young, 2016-2019, The health and disease status of marine turtles in northern Western Australia. Supervisors – Associate Professor Kristin Warren, Dr Lian Yeap, Dr Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins, Dr Nahiid Stephens, Dr Scott Whiting (DBCA).
    • Silke Pfitzer, 2016-2019, “Use of 8-OH-DPAT to prevent or alleviate opioid induced respiratory depression in wild animals.” Supervisors Dr Michael Laurence, Associate Professor Kristin Warren, Dr Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins.
    • Dr Flaminia Coiacetto, 2016-2019, Ongoing investigation into suspected annual organophosphate toxicity outbreaks causing hindlimb paralysis and death in Carnaby’s cockatoos.  Supervisors – Dr Gabrielle Rossi, Dr Nahiid Stephens & Dr Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins
    • Jessica Rendle, 2014-2017, Epidemiology of the clinical syndrome lumpy jaw in captive macropods; influence of housing and husbandry. Supervisors – Associate Professor Kristin Warren, Dr Bethany Jackson, Dr Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins, Dr Lian Yeap.
    • Lian Yeap, 2013-2018 (part-time enrolment). Feather moult and reproductive biology of black cockatoos; implications for rehabilitation of injured black cockatoos back to the wild. Supervisors – Dr Kristin Warren, Dr Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins, Dr Anna Le Souef, Dr Jill Shephard.

    Current professional doctorate students

    • Alisa Wallace, 2013-2016 (Resident– Perth Zoo), Doctor of Veterinary Medical Science, Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease Infection in Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, Dr Kristin Warren, Dr Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins, Dr Lian Yeap, Dr Simone Vitali.
    • Katrina Wood, 2016-2019 (Resident – Perth Zoo), Doctor of Veterinary Medical Science, The prevalence of Sunshinevirus, Arenavirus, Bornavirus, Nidovirus and Ferlavirus in captive and wild populations of Stimson pythons (Antaresia stimsoni), Pygmy Pythons (Antaresia perthensis) and Carpet python (Morelia spilota) species, Dr Kristin Warren, Dr Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins, Dr Lian Leap, Dr Simone Vitali.
    • Supaphen Sripiboon, 2012-2016, The epidemiology of elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Thailand, Recipient of the Prime Minister’s Australia-Asia Award. Supervisors – Dr Kris Warren, Dr Bethany Jackson, Dr Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins, Dr Mark Bennett, Professor Ian Robertson.
    • Sarah Alexander, 2015 -2018, (Resident, New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine, Auckland Zoo).DVetMedSci: “Pharmacokinetic Research to Determine the Efficacy of Itraconazole Treatment for CANV Fungal Infection in Tuatara.” Supervisors – Dr Kris Warren, Dr Bethany Jackson, Dr Rebecca Vaughan-Higgins, Dr Richard Jakob-Hoff.



    • Vaughan-Higgins, R., (2019),Disease Risk Analysis for Translocations,In: CURRENT THERAPY IN MEDICINE OF AUSTRALIAN MAMMALS, CSIRO Publishing, pages 37 to 50.


    • Pfitzer, S., woodward, a., Laubscher, L., Warren, K., Vaughan-Higgins, R., Raath, J., Laurence, M., (2019), Pharmacokinetics and bioavailability after intra-muscular injection of the 5-HT1A serotonin agonist R-8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino) tetralin (8-OH-DPAT) in domestic goats (Capra aegagrus hircus), Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 42, 2019, pages 251 - 257.
    • Skogvold, K., Warren, K., Jackson, B., Holyoake, C., Stalder, K., Devlin, J., Vitali, S., Wayne, A., Legione, A., Robertson, I., Vaughan-Higgins, R., (2017), Infectious Disease Surveillance in the Woylie (Bettongia penicillata), EcoHealth: conservation medicine: human health: ecosystem sustainability, online, , pages -.
    • Yeap, L., Shephard, J., Bouten, W., Jackson, B., Vaughan-Higgins, R., Warren, K., (2017), Development of a tag-attachment method to enable capture of fine and landscape-scale movement in black-cockatoos, Australian Field Ornithology, 34, , pages 49 - 55.
    • Vaughan-Higgins, R., Masters, N., Sainsbury, T., (2016), Biosecurity for translocations: Fisher's estuarine moth (Gortyna borelii lunate, short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterranean), pool frog (Pelophylax lessonae) and cirl bunting (Emberiza cirlus) translocations as case studies. (NO DOC), EcoHealth: conservation medicine: human health: ecosystem sustainability, , , pages -.
    • Brown, M., Sainsbury, T., Vaughan-Higgins, R., Measures, G., Jones, C., Gammans, N., (2016), Bringing Back a Healthy Buzz? Invertebrate Parasites and Reintroductions: A Case Study in Bumblebees., EcoHealth: conservation medicine: human health: ecosystem sustainability, , , pages -.
    • Sainsbury, T., Yu-Mei, R., Agren, E., Vaughan-Higgins, R., McGill, I., Molenaar, F., Peniche, G., Foster, J., (2016), Disease Risk Analysis and Post-Release Health Surveillance for a Reintroduction Programme: the Pool Frog Pelophylax lessonae, Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, , , pages -.
    • Vaughan-Higgins, R., Buller, N., Friend, J., Robertson, I., Monaghan, C., Fenwick, S., Warren, K., (2011), Balanoposthitis, Dyspareunia, and Treponema in the Critically Endangered Gilbert's Potoroo (Potorous gilbertii), Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 47, 4, pages 1019 - 1025.
    • Vaughan-Higgins, R., Buller, N., Friend, A., Robertson, I., Monaghan, C., Fenwick, S., Warren, K., (2011), Balanoposthitis, dyspareunia and Treponema in the critically endangered Gilberts potoroo (Potorous gilbertii), Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 47, 4, pages 1019 - 1025.
    • Vaughan-Higgins, R., Vitali, S., Eden, P., Payne, K., Warren, K., Forshaw, D., Friend, J., Horwitz, A., Main, C., Krockenberger, M., Malik, R., (2007), Cryptococcosis in Gilbert's and long-nosed potoroo, Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, 38, 4, pages 567 - 573.
    • Jeanes, C., Vaughan-Higgins, R., Green, R.E., Sainsbury, A.W., Marshall, R.N., & Blake, D.P. 2013. Two new Eimeria sp. parasitic in corncrakes (Crex crex) (Gruiformes: Rallidae) in the United Kingdom. Journal of Parasitology doi: Available:
    • Vaughan-Higgins, R.J., Bradfield, K., Friend, J.A., Riley, T.V., & Vitali, S. 2013. Erysipelas in a numbat (Myrmecobious fasciatus).  Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. 44(1): 208-211.
    • Sainsbury, A.W., &  R.J. Vaughan-Higgins. 2011. Analyzing disease risks associated with translocations for conservation purposes. Conservation Biology. 26(3):442-52
    • Peniche, G., Vaughan-Higgins, R., Carter, I., Pocknell, A., Simpson, D., & Sainsbury, T. 2011. Long-term health effects of harness-mounted radio-transmitters in red kites (Milvus milvus) in England. Veterinary Record. 169:311 doi:10.1136/vr.d4600
    • Vaughan, R.J., Warren, K.S., Mills, J., Palmer, C., Fenwick, S., Monaghan, C.L., & Friend, J.A. 2009.  Haematological and serum biochemical reference values and cohort analysis in the Gilbert’s potoroo (Potorous gilbertii).  Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. 40(2): 276–288.
    • Vaughan, R.J., 2008. Health and disease status of Australia’s most critically endangered mammal the Gilbert’s potoroo (Potorous gilbertii). PhD thesis. Murdoch University. 420pp. (online). Available at: 27 September 2010)
    • Vaughan, R.J., Vitali, S.D., Payne, K.P. & Eden, P.A. 2006. A Splendid Tree Frog with oedema syndrome and Intestinal Adenocarcinoma, Veterinary Clinics of North America – Exotic Animal Practice 9 Sept pp.583-587.
    • Vitali, S.D., Eden, P.A., Payne, K.P & Vaughan, R.J. 2006. An outbreak of Mycobacteriosis in Gouldian Finches caused by Mycobacterium peregrinumVeterinary Clinics of North America  – Exotic Animal Practice 9 Sept pp.519-522.