Rhonda Ann Patterson, Ph.D. 1965-2017

Rhonda Ann Patterson, Ph.D. 1965-2017

The IAAAM Board mourns the passing of past IAAAM President Dr. Rhonda Ann Patterson in May 2017. Our thoughts are with her family and friends. The family has asked that friends “Please Pay Her Gifts Forward in Your Lives!”    

A scholarship fund in Dr. Patterson’s name has been established at Western Kentucky University. Information on contributing to this fund may be obtained from Jessica Carver, College Heights Foundation, WKU, 1906 College Heights Blvd, #41016, Bowling Green, KY 42101.

Rhonda's Biography

Rhonda Ann Patterson was born September 19, 1965 in Carthage, Missouri to Ronald Ray and Patricia Ann Patterson.  The family settled in St. Louis, MO where Rhonda graduated from Pattonville Senior High School in 1983, then graduated from the University of Missouri, earning a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Animal Sciences, in 1987.

Rhonda entered the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, MS set on earning her Master of Science with a study of echolocation in marine mammals, specifically dolphins, working in conjunction with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, MS and the US Navy in San Diego, CA. Unfortunately, when the dolphin she was working with became ill and died, Rhonda was advised to direct her studies towards a doctorate thereby skipping the Master’s program. She earned her Doctorate of Microbiology with a specific interest in Immunology from Southern Miss in 1998 continuing her research with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and the US Navy, helping them diagnose diseases in their dolphins and determine strategies to produce antibodies to protect them in their high-stress work environments in oceans through the world.

As a member and officer of the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine, Dr. Patterson traveled extensively including trips to Australia and New Zealand. She served as President of IAAAM in 2005 – 2006. Recognized for her expertise in working with marine mammals, she presented papers at conferences in Holland and Portugal as well as sites throughout the United States. Additionally, she collaborated with the research staffs of The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, AK.

Dr. Patterson began teaching at Western Kentucky University (WKU) in Fall 2005. During her tenure at WKU, she taught classes in the biological sciences on South Campus as well as on Main Campus. Barren River Area Safe Space recognized Dr. Patterson and her students in March 2009 for collecting hundreds of cell phones and chargers for their recycling program to help victims of domestic violence. This was an ongoing project that meant a lot to Dr. Patterson. She was also instrumental in establishing the Women in Transition (WIT) program which provides computer resources and scholarships to assist nontraditional female students.

In her late 20s, Dr. Patterson was diagnosed with Essential Tremors which typically involves a tremor of the arms, hands or fingers but sometimes involves the head, vocal cords or other body parts during voluntary movements such as eating and writing. Although only fifty-one when she passed away, she had experienced increasing difficulty resulting from the tremors which were unsuccessfully treated with medication. The KY Department of Agriculture approved her mini-farm, equipment and sheep to use for producing antibodies necessary in her research but this dream had to be abandoned when the tremors affected her manual dexterity. Teaching was always her first love, and now she focused all her knowledge and energy on her students.

Some of the comments from students include, “Thank you so much for being a fantastic biology professor. . . Thank you for your patience, passion, and willingness to help. . . I didn’t have Dr. Patterson but many of my friends did, and said that she was a terrific teacher, always willing to help, was patient and kind. . . She will be greatly missed.”

Rhonda passed away on May 19, 2017, at her home in Brownsville, KY. Besides her mother, Patricia Streng, she is survived by her sister, Elizabeth Schneider (Steve) of Kansas City, MO; brother, David Patterson (Vickie) of Austin, TX; four nieces, Erin Zimmerman (Tim), Meredith Schneider, Marilyn Robinson, Priscilla Robinson; and one nephew, Ian Schneider. 


Congratulations to this year's winners of the IAAAM Student Presentation Awards.

Student Poster Competition

Bryce Miller, veterinary student, University of Florida
Discrepancy of Plasma Iron Concentrations with Tissue Iron Stores in Chronically Debilitated Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) with Inflammatory Disease

1st Place- Undergrads/Vet Students/Masters Students Presentation Competition

Mauricio Seguel, PhD Student, University of Georgia
Hookworm Clearance in South American Fur Seal pups (Arctocephalus australis): Mechanisms and Role in Pup Survival.

2nd Place- Undergrads/Vet Students/Masters Students Presentation

Jacob Rodgers, Veterinary Student, Colorado State University
Optimization of Diagnostic Approaches in Marine Parasitology and Specific Gravity Determination of Helminth Eggs in Pinnipeds

1st Place- Intern/Resident/Post-Doc Student Competition

Laura Thompson, Post-Doc, Mystic Aquarium
The Complement Cascade In Marine Mammals As A Mechanism To Avoid Damage From Nitrogen Bubbles During Diving

2nd Place- Intern/Resident/Post-Doc Student Competition

Brittany Stevens, Aquatic Animal Health Fellow, UC Davis
Ultrasonographic Determination of Normal Juvenile Koi (Cyprinus carpio) Anatomy and Gender


After the recent 2017 IAAAM Conference and Meeting, there was a change to the IAAAM Board for the upcoming year.

  • Past President: Pam Tuomi, DVM (moved from President)
  • President: Martin Haulena, DVM, MSc, DACZM (moved from President-Elect)
  • President-Elect: Michael S. Renner, DVM (new)
  • Treasurer: Tonya Clauss, DVM, MS (continuing)
  • Secretary: Todd Robeck, DVM, PhD (new)
  • Board Member for Membership: Hendrik Nollens, DVM, PhD (continuing)
  • Board Member for Education: Kathleen Colegrove, DVM, PhD, Dip ACVP (continuing)
  • Board Member for Communications: Michael B Briggs DVM,MS (continuing)

Contact information for these board members can be found on the About IAAAM web page.


The International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine congratulates the following IAAAM members who have been named 2016 ACZM Diplomates.

  • Elsburgh Clarke
  • Genny Dumonceaux
  • Jennifer Flower
  • Jennifer Meegan

The 49th Annual IAAAM Conference and Meeting will begin on May 19, 2018 and run through May 23, 2018. The Conference will be held at the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel in Long Beach California. 


The Aquarium of the Pacific along with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) have teamed up to help save the world’s most endangered marine mammal, the vaquita porpoise.

Vaquita populations have declined to extremely low levels with an estimated 30 animals remaining. This is down from an estimate of 60 only one year ago. In order to protect the last remaining vaquita, it has been determined that ex situ conservation, or collecting and bringing the remaining few vaquita into a protected sanctuary, is an urgent and necessary course of action. Experts from the eighth meeting of the Comité Internacional para la Recuperación de la Vaquita (CIRVA 8) have determined that current conservation actions are happening too slowly and that this effort is needed to protect the remaining vaquita. Vaquita are rare and shy animals. They avoid boat noise and will prove difficult to locate and capture. To support this effort, the Mexican Government has solicited the United States Navy to use trained US Navy dolphins to support the location and collection of vaquita. This invitation has been accepted and plans are underway to develop the protocols and personnel that will be needed to accomplish this task and all of the other components of the project. 

This effort will be difficult, and while all necessary experts are being engaged, nothing like this has ever been attempted. However, there are no viable alternatives left for the vaquita. If we don’t do this now and continue to establish conservation measures within their native habitat, the vaquita will go extinct in as little as three years. We cannot let this happen.

AZA, along with a number of zoos and aquariums, are supporting this vaquita rescue plan, but we need your help. Collectively we have been able to generate only about half of the one million dollars needed to begin making preparations for the vaquita rescue. We have until the end of the month to raise the remaining support. Will you help? A donation of any amount will help to make this happen. 


To learn more about the rescue effort go to VaquitaCPR.org.