Humans of Ross Vet—Carla Rivera

Jul 30, 2020

3 Questions with Ross Vet Ph.D student, Carla Rivera

Ph.D. student, Carla Rivera participated in the World Marine Mammal Conference in Barcelona, Spain where she presented a research poster related to the molecular parasitology of manatees during two different sections. Her findings document the use of trematode parasites as bio-indicators of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) distribution and diet through molecular procedures.

This Puerto Rican native has been working with manatees for over 10 years. She is currently the Deputy Director of the Caribbean Manatee Conservation Center (CMCC) and professor at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Bayamon Campus.

Join us as Carla shares her journey on the conservation of marine species and their habitats through research.

Ross Vet: How did you become interested in working with manatees? 

Carla Rivera: My interest in manatees began in 2010 through an environmental community service class that I chose as an elective class during my bachelor's degree in forensic sciences. The class was with Professor Dr. Mignucci, Director of the Caribbean Manatee Conservation Center (CMCC). The opportunity to prepare for the release of one of the manatees, Tuque, as we called him, awakened my interest in entering the marine world and the field of conservation of endangered species. 

Ross Vet: What work takes place at the Center? 

Carla Rivera: The PRMCC is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating  manatees, sea turtles and seabirds that require help. We are also involved in community outreach, veterinary care, research and population research of the manatees. The PRMCC also trains students (technicians and volunteers) and citizens of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean on how they can help in the conservation of endangered species.

Ross Vet: Share information on your doctoral studies work at the University? 

Carla Rivera: In 2019 I was fortunate to be accepted into the doctoral program of Ross Vet (Ph.D. by Research). This was a great opportunity and goal for me. The Ph.D. research I am involved in is entitled “Topics on manatee conservation medicine: Veterinary pathology and parasitology.” The Ph.D. research I am involved in is entitled “Topics on manatee conservation medicine: Veterinary pathology and parasitology” under the mentoring of Dr. Michelle Dennis, Dr. Mark Freeman and Dr. Antonio Mignucci. This is directly related to the One-Ocean and One Health visions. More importantly, my research will also allow me to suggest new conservation efforts based on my pathological findings.

Fun facts about manatees from Carla Rivera:

  1. Manatees rise to the surface to breathe every 3-5 minutes, but can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes.
  2. The gestation period in an adult female manatee is 13 months.
  3. Manatees consume daily (plants) between 7 to 10% of their body weight.


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Interested in learning more about a degree in veterinary medicine at Ross Vet?