Ambassador Profile – Katrina Shlyakonova, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Hi, I’m Katrina – Committee member of the Dick Vet Wildlife Conservation Society at Edinburgh University. I have been a part of The Expedition Project Ambassador team since 2020.
Since working with The Expedition Project I have been helping with graphic design work, doing live streams and developing online courses with the help of Wildlife Vets like Dr. Peter Rogers, Ecologists like Terry-Lee Honiball and fellow ambassadors from Edinburgh, Nottingham and RVC, London.
WHEN DID I FIRST REALISE, I WANTED TO BE A VET?
It took me until about 3 months before the application deadline to decide that studying Veterinary Medicine was what I wanted to do – I was floating between History, Graphic Design and Marine Biology before that. My fear of needles and having fainted more than once at the sight of blood was my main deterring factor, but after speaking to some vets I realized so many vets still feel queasy and faint (and students do it all the time in university too). To this day I am amazed at how far I’ve been able to push my limits and even if I still occasionally faint I haven’t let that affect me in surgeries or during consults.
WHAT IS MY MOTIVATION TO BECOME A VET?
The natural world and humans are incredibly linked yet there is still so much misunderstanding and exploitation of animals. As a vet I hope to educate and spread awareness of the issues were currently face with and improve animal welfare in every human-animal interaction.
MY BIGGEST TIP IF YOU WANT TO STUDY TO BECOME A VET IS…
Getting experience before coming to university was both my favorite thing but also helped me a lot to understand lectures when I knew the specifics of what we were learning e.g. animal handling was much less scary when I had experience with those species beforehand. My biggest tip is therefore to learn as much as you can outside of a clinical setting about animal behaviour, housing, handling, feeding etc. as it is really important to have a good foundation of this for veterinary!
THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A VET IS…
The very essence of being a vet entails that you are able to provide (at least) first aid to any animal that walks through your door – and what this really means is that you have to have a good knowledge of all the species differences for diseases, treatments and pharmacology. It’s a lot of knowledge to learn but luckily there are amazing books and colleagues you can always lean on for support!
WHAT IS MY FAVOURITE ANIMAL?
For any animal lover, this is always a tough question but my favorite is only ironically so: the Ocean Sun Fish is simply wonderful because they are just so evolutionary perfectly useless with virtually no predators (having the caloric value of a rice cracker) and amazing reproductive potential. They’re the largest bony fish and resemble dinner plates, yet don’t have a swim bladder (therefore known as “toppled car fish” in Taiwan since the fish struggles to right itself). Their teeth are fused together so they struggle to close they’re mouth and look permanently surprised… need I go on?
MY FAVOURITE ANIMAL RELATED STORY IS…
This summer, on my drive into the clinic I drove past a fox lying on the side of the road, as if asleep. I’m so glad I turned around and went back to check because it was a young cub that had been hit by a car. I took her into the clinic where we got her x-rayed, hydrated and were able to administer painkillers. The accident had fractured her femur and tibia but we were able to fix it and she was released to a rehab facility to ensure she was fully rehabilitated before release.
MY FAVOURITE ANIMAL PHOTO I HAVE TAKEN IS…
A photo of an adult giraffe in an Australian Zoo, with the city in the background. It’s maybe not the prettiest image I have taken but it is a stark reminder of how closely interlinked humans and wildlife have become, but also of the educational value zoos provide to the public, especially as a source of inspiration to children!