Dr. Maarten Drost's eyes light up as he shows images of how to repair a cow's prolapsed uterus, though someone who wasn't a veterinarian might look aghast at the animal's condition.
Dr. Drost, a professor emeritus of theriogenology at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, is demonstrating The Drost Project, a visual guide to animal reproduction available to anyone with access to the Web. The project's purpose is to share teaching slides as a resource for reference and presentations, though the photos are not necessarily of print quality.
Online collections of veterinary images are few and far between, and many sites are simply professors' lectures or course notes. Dr. Drost said one collection that can be helpful to veterinarians is the Animal Science Image Gallery, though the site doesn't emphasize disease. The Drost Project is a searchable collection of photos relating to reproduction in cattle and water buffalo, and Dr. Drost hopes to add sections soon for horses and dogs.
Dr. Drost, who is a diplomate of the American College of Theriogenologists, conceived the idea for the project before he retired three years ago. He was wondering how to preserve his teaching slides, many of which he received from other professors. Slides don't always survive when a professor retires, he noted.
Dr. Drost collaborated with a former graduate student with a talent for computers, Dr. Gwen Cornwell, to develop his slides into a Web atlas. The collection has grown as individuals have donated more images, and the bovine section serves as a template for other sections.
"I never run out of shelf space," Dr. Drost said.
People from 20 countries have contacted him about the project in the recent past. Visitors to the site include professors, students, and practitioners.
"I'm hoping people will find it helpful in presentations and in client education," Dr. Drost said.
The notes accompanying each photo contain basic descriptions, but Dr. Drost welcomes e-mail messages with any updates.
"Not a lot has changed in manipulative obstetrics," he added.
Dr. Drost said the Animal Science Image Gallery has taken another approach to images relating to animal health.
The gallery is a partnership between the Animal Science Education Consortium, 15 colleges and universities throughout the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states that teach animal science, and the Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Library. Editor Harold D. Hafs, PhD, is a professor of animal science at Rutgers University.
Dr. Hafs said the gallery began as a way to address shrinking resources for teaching animal sciences. Professors wanted to share the best images for illustrating difficult concepts.
The gallery follows a format similar to a scientific journal, with section editors and peer reviewers. It focuses mostly on nutrition and reproduction, but editors want to fill many more categories. The site contains about 240 to 250 images, with more than 1,000 in peer review. Dr. Drost submitted many of the images that await approval.
Drs. Drost and Hafs both worry their sites need a system for preserving and improving the collections in perpetuity. The USDA Higher Education Challenge Grant for the Animal Science Image Gallery runs out in 2007, though the gallery soon will move from a server at the University of Richmond to a permanent home at the National Agriculture Library.
In the meantime, Drs. Drost and Hafs continue to provide their projects as resources available to anyone, anywhere, who might need a visual aid on animal health.