Tell us a little about yourself, your scientific and professional experiences?
My name is Rayon Gregory. I am currently employed to the Veterinary Services Division (VSD) of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) in Jamaica as a senior veterinary specialist. I head the Field Services and Animal Fertility Unit of the division. I am the holder of an associate of science(Asc) degree in general agriculture from the College of Agriculture, Science and Education, Jamaica; a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree from the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, Russian Federation, and a master of veterinary studies (MVS) degree in veterinary epidemiology from Massey University, New Zealand. My unit consists of veterinarians and para-veterinarians, distributed across the island and is responsible for implementing the mandate of the division. I am also responsible for planning and implementing animal health surveillance in the country.
For you, why GIS is interesting to be used in Veterinary Sciences?
Veterinary medicine is the most diverse of the medical fields. It caters to the health and welfare of all animal species including human. GIS studies geospatial factors and there is a wealth of evidence that proves the effect that location has on animal health. Firstly, animal populations are not randomly distributed in space; they are grouped into spatial clusters for a variety of reasons: climate, ownership, administrative boundaries, species, age, sex, religion, disease status culture, economics etc. The health, welfare and management of animals are also influenced by their physical location. Areas of veterinary medicine where GIS is extremely important include:
Animal Health Surveillance – creating risk-maps that identify areas to target for during disease surveillance. This increases the likelihood of finding disease early and also reduce the cost of surveillance
Disease outbreak response – creating maps that show the location of diseased animal clusters relative to other animals and human clusters as well as the geographical features of the land surrounding disease clusters. This information is vital to coordinated response. It will determine where biosecurity and surveillance measures are to be implemented.
Movement of animals – maps can be used to display the spatial movement of animals and materials influencing animal health. For example, the map of the international flyways for wild birds helps in drafting biosecurity measures to prevent infection of domestic birds. Similarly, knowledge of the spatial location of hubs (live animal markets, feed distributors, animal transportation route, and farm services) will guide biosecurity and surveillance.
Animal housing feeding and management – knowing the spatial features (topography, soil type, types of plants and animal species, human population density, road density, proximity to rivers and landfills) and temporal features (climate and weather patterns, past outbreaks) will help to determine how the land is use for animal production (type of housing, stocking rates, species to rare, vaccinations, etc). This information can be displayed using GIS.
As an expert, how would you describe the use of GIS in the Caribbean?
From my position, I am not able to speak to the extent at which GIS is used in the Caribbean since I am not privy to such information. However, from assessing publications coming out of the region it is my opinion that GIS is underutilized in veterinary medicine in the Caribbean. In Jamaica, GIS is current used to map the GPS locations of animal holdings and places of interests to animal health (dumps, pounds, wetlands, veterinary drug stores, abattoirs, ports etc.). Since the CaribVet Risk Mapping workshops, GIS is now being considered for inclusion in animal health surveillance.
When and why did you start using GIS tools? Why did you decide to join the CaribVET's C-VIS group?
I consider myself to be a visual thinker. Since childhood I understood topics better if there were a schematic display of it, therefore I quickly understood how to use maps in my daily routines. Also, when I was a cadet (paramilitary club that mimics the army - these exist in most Jamaican and British Commonwealth high schools), “Map Reading” was a major subject. I was introduced to GIS as a master’s student at Massey University. There, I studied advanced spatial analysis of animal health data using statistical softwares “R’ and ArcView GIS. I even used GIS aspects of GIS in my thesis. Since returning home I rarely used the GIS skills due to the nature of my job. I joined the CaribVet’s C-VIS group because I wanted the opportunity to continue the development of my GIS skills and also to promote the uses of risk-maps and GIS in the management of animal health my country.
Please, tell us about one specific GIS/Animal Health project you worked on?
Other than the AI risk mapping project, already described in several articles. I streamline the mapping of animal holdings and places of interest to animal health in Jamaica. In this, the VSD field officers are given questionnaires and GPS machines and asked to collect point locations and demographic data on all animal holding and place of interest across Jamaica. Each officer collects a minimum of 10 holdings each month. This data is imputed in national databases and used to create maps which are to be used for animal health purposes.
In a world where everything is possible, describe a project involving GIS and Veterinary Sciences that you would dream to implement?
Given the opportunity, I would love to collect the necessary data and create disease risk-maps for all the priority diseases of poultry, swine, cattle and small ruminants in Jamaica. These maps would be use to guide surveillance for these diseases, ensuring more confidence in the national surveillance systems.