10 July 2011

Prestigious parasites: Two Oceans Aquarium’s David Vaughan receives PAAZAB award

Ingrid Sinclair
david vaughan pazaab Bernard Harrison
David Vaughan (left) at the PAAZAB gala dinner with Bernard Harrison himself. Photo courtesy Vee Naidoo/National Zoological Gardens of South Africa

A huge congratulations to Two Oceans Aquarium Aquatic Animal Health researcher David Vaughan! At a fancy gala dinner in May, David received a prestigious accolade from the African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZAB) – The Bernard Harrison and Friends Award for Best Professional Development – for his work in aquatic parasite research. David’s career moves have been unorthodox, inspiring and surprising – just how we love things here at the Aquarium.

A minefield of discovery

David is our man behind the microscope: he spends his time conducting research into various fish parasites and other health issues affecting aquatic animals at the Aquarium. His work in animal husbandry is absolutely essential to the industry and goes a long way in adding to the diverse interests of the Aquarium, which emphasise entertainment, education, conservation and research.

“Much of the [aquatic parasite research] work is novel,” says David, “so there is often little or no previous information on which to build. It is a minefield of discovery.” In 2010 alone, David described four new parasitic species. But that’s so last year …

Says David: “I am currently working on the parasites and treatment of Rhinobatos annulatus, a common rhinobatid ray found around our coastline. The research aims to identify potentially problematic monogenean (parasitic flatworms) taxa and to provide information on the optimum dosages for orally applied drugs to treat them. We were successful in being awarded external funding from Monterey Bay Aquarium (United States) to do the research, which will be completed in three years and includes the collaboration of various international experts.”

The Bernard Harrison and Friends Award for Best Professional Development

PAAZAB’s 2011 Annual Conference of the African Association of Zoos and Aquaria crowning moment was the Gala Dinner on 20 May, which is when David was awarded the Bernard Harrison and Friends Award for Best Professional Development.

Here’s what PAAZAB had to say about David (read on for an overview of his interesting career):

“Developing specific subject matter expertise requires unusually dedicated people. In this regard David Vaughan is no exception: although his first job was fixing washing machines and running a small pet shop, David first entered the PAAZAB community as a junior aquarist at the Two Oceans Aquarium in 1997. He went on to become a Class 4 commercial scientific diver in mid-1999 and in 2000 was promoted to Aquarist 2 taking on the important areas of quarantine and water quality.

“In 2003 David moved to Durban, employed by Sea World and the South African Association of Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) as the senior aquarist for quarantine. Here David completed his NAUI Nitrox-enriched air diving course and was involved with the quarantining and translocation of all the fishes from the old Sea World aquarium to uShaka Sea World in Durban in 2004 in preparation for the opening of the new facility.

Heterocotyle tokoloshei david vaughan aquarium cape town
Heterocotyle tokoloshei, the tokolosh worm, one of the species described by David in 2010

“He returned to the Two Oceans Aquarium in 2005 to take up the position of Senior Aquarist. In addition, he also completed the certificate course: Disease diagnostics and treatments (University of Stellenbosch, Department of Genetics) in 2005.

“David enrolled at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) as a part-time Honours student with the department of Biodiversity of Conservation Biology in 2006 and completed his BSc (Honours) Cum laude in 2007, even though he had never previously attended university. David was awarded first prize at the UWC departmental open day and a place on the Dean’s Merit list in 2006. He went on to complete his master’s degree cum laude in 2009 with the full research dissertation: Review of South African Genera of the family Hexabothriidae Price, 1942, parasites of chondrichthyan fishes.

“In 2007 David was promoted to the new appointment of Aquatic Animal Health Researcher at Two Oceans Aquarium, which remains his current position. He collaborates with various experts nationally and internationally and his research is published in reputable international peer-review journals and disseminated at various national and international symposia. He is now a recognised international expert in the field of fish parasites – a long way away from broken washing machines!

“In acknowledgement of this outstanding professional growth and contribution to science, the Bernard Harrison and Friends Award for best professional development is conferred upon David Vaughan.”

About Bernard Harrison and Friends: “Bernard Harrison and Friends provides expertise in the conceptualisation and development of zoological and botanical gardens and eco-tourism attractions with the present focus in concept design, master planning, development and business operations of such projects,” according to the company’s official website. The CEO, Bernard Harrison, was the CEO of Wildlife Reserves Singapore for 29 years before embarking on his consultancy business.

Blogs by David

The International Year of Biodiversity: Two Oceans Aquarium describes four new species

Olive passes away unexpectedly

Are we trading our carbon footprint for a mercury one?

Tokolosh discovered at the Aquarium!

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