Tue
21Jun
UTC
6:30pm
OnlineFree

What can animals teach us about environmental threats?

B. Natterson-Horowitz, MD

It can take decades for the human body to display symptoms of exposure to health hazards in our environment, but in the animal world, strange health trends can become apparent much more quickly. Could this alarm bell help us react faster to toxic threats?

Learn about this Garden Talk

It can take decades for the human body to display symptoms of exposure to health hazards in our environment, but in the animal world, strange health trends can become apparent much more quickly. Could this alarm bell help us react faster to toxic threats?

Human health challenges are increasingly linked to environmental factors. These environmental factors – from contamination to climate – also impact the health of the animals living in and around our communities, meaning that we can improve the health of our families by paying closer attention to the physical and mental health of the dogs and cats in our homes, the squirrels, mice and raccoons in our neighbourhood, and the fish swimming in nearby lakes, rivers and oceans. 

Many stories show how this can work. In the 1950s, cats in Minamata, a Japanese coastal village, began exhibiting a highly unusual movement disorder; people called them “the dancing cats of Minamata.” The cause was ultimately determined to be mercury toxicity from fish the cats were consuming. This led to the correct diagnosis (mercury toxicity) for humans who had been suffering from a mysterious neurologic disorder. When beluga whales in Newfoundland, Canada began dying with cancers ravaging their bodies, industrial waste was implicated - and increased rates of breast cancer among local women were linked to this contaminant too.

B. Natterson-Horowitz's fascinating work at Harvard University and UCLA uses insight from the natural world to find new ways of approaching human health and development. Studying a diverse range of animals in natural settings, B has uncovered adaptations with relevance to heart failure, sudden cardiac death, seizures, dementia, movement disorders, infertility and psychiatric conditions including anxiety, compulsive and eating disorders.

B joins us in The Garden to show what we can learn about our environment by looking at the other creatures who inhabit it, and how this insight can protect us from the threats we don't see coming.

Talk outline

Duration

50 minutes

What to expect

30 minute talk

20 minute Member Q&A

B. Natterson-Horowitz, MD

In her work at Harvard University, B studies a diverse range of animals to better understand human health challenges, including heart failure, seizures, dementia, infertility, anxiety and eating disorders.

Lessons from the Animal Kingdom Collection

Humans aren’t the only species to suffer from mental health problems, heart disease, infertility or cancer. B. Natterson-Horowitz, MD, takes us on a journey into the animal world in search of clues to help us understand our own health and behaviour.