CONTACT ZEAPS NOW:          706-542-8092          [email protected]

The UGA Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service (ZEAPS)

The UGA Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service (ZEAPS), established in 2011 by Drs. Rita McManamon and Branson W. Ritchie, provides access to histopathology and diagnostic services through a team of highly trained, board-certified pathologists with unique expertise in zoological and exotic animal species. Our ZEAPS team members provide necropsy, biopsy and histopathology support to veterinarians serving zoos, aquaria, private hospitals and more. All diagnostic work is conducted by the Infectious Diseases Laboratory (IDL), complementary UGA laboratories or subcontracting laboratories that meet rigorous standards.

ZEAPS is managed by the Infectious Diseases Laboratory, and the service  is jointly based in the departments of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, and also Pathology at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in Athens, Georgia. The service includes training for pathology residents, zoological medicine residents and veterinary students. ZEAPS is overseen by a steering committee comprised of the IDL’s co-directors (Drs. Branson W. Ritchie and Brittany McHale), the department head for Pathology (Dr. Jesse Hostetter), the ZEAPS team pathologists (Drs. Bryce Miller and Caitlin Burrell), and senior pathologists from the Department of Pathology (Drs. Elizabeth Howerth and Nicole Gottdenker).

While the instructions on this webpage apply to shipping avian samples for testing and necropsy, please see the area of our website Resources > Downloadable Forms > Instructions for “Instructions for Avian Swab and Blood Collection and Submission for Molecular Diagnostic Testing,” which contains best practices on collecting swabs, whole blood and feather samples from avian species.

For more information about our services, email ZEAPS at [email protected].

ZEAPS Submission Forms and Instructions

For submission forms, information on sample collection, shipping protocols and guidance, etc., please see our Resources page.

Meet the ZEAPS Team

A photo of Caitlin BurrellCaitlin Burrell, DVM, MS, DACVP

Dr. Burrell is a faculty pathologist and research scientist in the Infectious Diseases Laboratory. Prior to joining IDL, Dr. Burrell was a wildlife pathologist for the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study where she conducted disease surveillance and diagnostic investigations for state and federal wildlife agencies. Through her work with zoos, aquaria, and wildlife agencies, Dr. Burrell has gained experience in the diseases and pathology of a wide range of species, including avian, reptile, amphibian, aquatic, and terrestrial and marine mammals. Prior to transitioning to the pathology field, Dr. Burrell practiced clinical medicine of domestic, companion exotic, and zoo and wildlife species as well as conducted international research on the health and reproductive physiology of giant and red pandas. For more information about Dr. Burrell, visit her faculty page.

A photo of Nicole GottdenkerNicole Gottdenker, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVP

Dr. Gottdenker is a professor of anatomic pathology in the Department of Pathology and is courtesy faculty in the Odum School of Ecology. She did her anatomic pathology residency at the Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo and earned her PhD in Ecology from the Odum School of Ecology at UGA. Her areas of expertise include vector-borne, wildlife/exotic, and zoonotic diseases, as well as infectious diseases, community ecology of infectious diseases, and wildlife disease ecology. She has worked with a wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife, zoo animals; peccaries and other Central and South American species; avian species; feral canid and cat populations; reptiles, marine mammals; companion animals and others. For more information about Dr. Gottdenker, visit her laboratory page.


A photo of Elizabeth HowerthElizabeth Howerth, DVM, PhD, DACVP

Dr. Howerth is a professor of anatomic pathology in the Department of Pathology. Her research interests and areas of expertise include avian, neuro-, and wildlife pathology, as well as vector-borne and zoonotic diseases. She has worked with a wide variety of species including raptors, ruminants, equine, zoo and exotic animals, freshwater and marine animals, megafauna, companion animals, and farm animals. In addition to her ZEAPS responsibilities, Dr. Howerth trains DVM students and residents in pathology, provides pathology services to the UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital and veterinarians in Georgia, and leads the biopsy service in the College of Veterinary Medicine. For more information about Dr. Howerth, visit her faculty page.


A photo of Bryce Miller Bryce Miller, DVM, DACVP

Dr. Miller is a faculty pathologist and research scientist in the Department of Pathology and the Infectious Diseases Laboratory. Her background includes work with a wide variety of non-domestic species ranging from sea lions to boa constrictors, terrestrial tortoise and sea turtle species, and other poikilotherms. She has a professional passion for infectious diseases of reptiles, aquatic animals, and marine invertebrates, particularly bivalves. In addition to her ZEAPS responsibilities, Dr. Miller greatly enjoys training the anatomic pathology residents. For more information about Dr. Miller, visit her faculty page.


A photo of Brittany McHaleBrittany McHale, DVM, MPH, DACVP

Dr. McHale is a faculty pathologist, research scientist, and co-director of the Infectious Diseases Laboratory. Her research interests and expertise include diseases of wildlife and exotic animals, identification of novel disease agents, and investigations into potential links between ingested and other plastic encounters, and morbidity/mortality in wildlife. Dr. McHale has worked on a wide variety of species including companion animals, great apes, elephants, pandas, ferrets, pigs, alpacas, equine, meerkats, avian species, rodents (guinea pigs, rabbits, mice, etc.), ruminants (cattle, deer, goats), aquatic mammals, sea turtles and other megafauna. For more information about Dr. McHale, visit her faculty page.


Publications involving the ZEAPS Team

Imanse SM, Burrell CE, Cannizzo SA, Reilly TS, Rainwater KL, Delaney MA. Neoplasia in an assurance population of Puerto Rican crested toads (Peltophryne lemur). Vet Pathol. (2024). Epub ahead of print.

Orbay-Cerrato ME, Nilsen RA, Gottdenker N, McManamon R, Elbert JA, Stilwell JM, Ard MB, Ritchie BW, McHale B. Detection of skunk adenovirus-1 in domestic ferrets (Mustela putorius). Vet Pathol. 61(1):135-139 (2024).

Ellis JS, Ritchie BW, McHale B, Rao S, Sadar MJ. Surveillance for Avian Bornavirus in Colorado and Wyoming, USA, Raptor Populations. J Wildl Dis. 60(1):164-167 (2024).

Yin J, Oster S, McHale B, Neto R. Naturally occurring psittacid alphaherpesvirus-3 and probable adenovirus co-infection in an Indian ringneck parakeet (Psittacula krameria) in the United States. J Vet Diagn Invest. 35(6):772-776 (2023).

Gottdenker NL, Nascimento Ramos RA, Hakimi H, McHale B, Rivera S, Miller BM, Howerth EWBurrell CE, Stilwell JM, McManamon R, Verocai GG. Angiostrongylus cantonensis Infection in Brown Rats (Rattus norvegicus), Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 2019-2022. Emerg Infect Dis. 29(10):2167-2170 (2023).

Miller B, Sturmer L, Roberts J. Disseminated neoplasia in cultured hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria). Vet Pathol. 60(5):624-627 (2023).

Leach KS, Rivera S, Devlin W, Kutinsky I, Boyd R, Danforth MD, Rapoport G, Yakubinis L, McManamon R, McHale B, Murphy HW. Management of Atrial Fibrillation, Ventricular Arrhythmia, Left Ventricular Dysfunction, and Subsequent Cardiopathologic Evaluation in an Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus x Abelii). J Zoo Wildl Med. 54(2):406-411 (2023).

Bonwitt J, Riethman M, Glashower D, Oltean HN, Wohrle R, Joseph B, McHale B, Ritchie, B. Application of environmental sampling to investigate a case of avian chlamydiosis in a pet store and breeding facility leading to mass bird exposures. Zoonoses and Public Health. 70(6):572-577 (2023).

Grunert RKA, Kunkel MR, Radisic R, Nemeth NM, Burrell CE, Shender LA, Guzman-Vargas V, Cunningham MW, Yabsley MJ. Notoedric mange (Notoedres centrifera) in Two Species of Free-ranging Rabbits from Florida, USA. Vet. Parasit.: Regional Studies and Reports. 33:100748 (2022).

Seguel M, McManamon R, Reavill D, Van Sant F, Hassan SM, Ritchie BW, Howerth, EW. Neuropathology of feral conures with bromethalin toxicosis. Vet Pathol. 59(3):489-492 (2022).

Kirejczyk SGM, Goodwin C, Gyimesi ZS, Zachariah TT, Sturgeon GL, Armwood AR, Frontera-Acevedo K, Kokosinksa A, Seguel M, Fogelson SB, Burnum AL, Miller D, Sakamoto K, Howerth EW, McManamon R, Gottdenker N. A Retrospective Study of Pathology in Bats Submitted to an Exotic and Zoo Animal Diagnostic Service in Georgia, USA (2008-2019). J Comp Pathol. 185:96-107 (2021).

McHale B, Callahan RT, Paras KL, Weber M, Kimbrell L, Velázquez-Jiménez Y, McManamon R, Howerth EW, Verocai GG. Sparganosis due to Spirometra sp. (Cestoda; Diphyllobothriidae) in captive meerkats (Suricata suricatta). Int J Parasitol Parasites Wildl. 13:186-190 (2020).

McCain S, Sim RR, Howerth EW, Aschenbroich S, Kirejczyk SGM, McHale B, Jerry C, Kottwitz JJ, Wilson AE, McManamon R. Myonecrosis and death due to presumed microcystin toxicosis in American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhyncos). J Zoo Wildl Med. 51(2):407-415 (2020).

Ter Beest JM, LaDouceur EEB, Juan-Sallés C, Garner MM, Howerth EW, Wellehan JFX, Childress AL, Graves GE, Gyimesi ZS. Encephalitozoon cuniculi infection in a black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) kit. J Zoo Wildl Med. 50(2):487-491 (2019).

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