A Week in the Life of MCM

A Week in the Life of MCM

The end of fall semester tends be an exciting albeit exhausting time for the Master of Science in Conservation Medicine (MCM) students.  As classes wind down and the chill of winter sets in, the students start thinking about winter break Externships or digging into their capstone Case Study projects.  But before winter break, these weeks are full of plenty to do!

Field techniques


A curious raccoon triggers a camera trap in an MCM survey of the Grafton campus.

Having completed field training in the swamps, forests, and fields of Massachusetts earlier in the semester, the students are now putting their diverse technical skills to work on group projects in the Field and Lab Techniques course directed by MCM Assistant Director Dr. Alison Robbins.

By the end of the semester, the students will have mastered the art of tracking, handling, trapping, and pipetting, skills which will help them complete their Externships over the winter break or next summer.

This year, the MCM students have welcomed the challenge of concurrently taking our own intensive GIS (geographic information system) for Conservation Professionals course, in addition to the regular classes. This will help springboard them into their Case Study projects.

Classroom and conversation


MCM students hone their public speaking and presentation skills during class presentations.

In our Health, Disease and the Environment course, they are learning about threats to plants, animals, and the environment. This includes everything from infectious diseases such as anthrax and Zika virus, to non-infectious threats, such as those caused by humans- pollution, climate change and deforestation.

In bi-weekly Journal Club, designated students are dissecting their choice of publications and exposing their peers to topics ranging from the effects of invasive shrimp on important European waterways to what the microbiome of Tasmanian devils might tell us about their health and prospects for conservation.

On the go

On any given week this month MCM students are in classrooms and the new Tufts Data Lab in Medford, as well as a variety of research and anatomy labs, classrooms and in the woods on the Grafton campus.  On top of that rigorous core course load, some MCM students are taking additional electives including Animals in Captivity and Environmental Toxicology.

As the semester ends the students are honing their presentation skills, building their leadership and communication skills, and practicing ways of efficiently and effectively working in groups. They’re expanding their professional networks with classroom contact with a variety of biologists, doctors, ecologists, and other scientists including many of the best experts in their fields.

While the MCM students collectively immerse themselves in all these aspects of the program, at this time of year they are also constantly exploring and developing with their program mentors their own individualized plans for their Externships and Case Studies. Some are preparing to apply for small grants in order to conduct research projects either domestically or abroad. They are making plans with scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, a shark researcher in Delaware, and a conservation trust in Zimbabwe, just to name a few.

The experience


The MCM class of 2017 poses with the new ‘Jumbo the elephant’ statue on the Medford campus.

With the fall semester mostly behind them, the intimate nature of the program means the MCM students now know each other well and have formed strong bonds.  They are tapping into each other’s skills in order to strengthen their own.  They are sharing their personal and professional connections to facilitate each other’s projects and professional development.  They are also having occasional fun socializing and exploring our campuses, our cities and towns, and the great outdoors of the New England region.

They are each learning to combine all of these important social, technical, and professional skills with all the rigorous content we offer in order to be better prepared to tackle the conservation medicine challenges we all face together.  In short, they are having what we like to refer to as ‘The MCM Experience.’