History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences

Faculty

Lucy Spelman

Dr. Lucy Spelman is a veterinarian board-certified in zoological medicine — one of 156 in the world. Her patients have included giant pandas in China, Asian elephants in Burma, giant river otters in Guyana and mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She has worked as a zoo veterinarian, a zoo administrator, a wildlife veterinarian, a media consultant, a writer, and an educator. She currently practices in Rhode Island and teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design. Her courses are: the Biology of Human-Animal Interactions, Evolutionary Biology, Visualizing the Natural Sciences, and Exploring the Art and Science of Biodiversity: Guyana. At RISD, Dr. Spelman is working with artists and designers to make what is happening today to animals more real, understandable, and meaningful. She also coordinates the science curriculum within the Liberal Arts Division.

Dr. Spelman’s research interest is in the area of one-health medicine, an emerging field of study that examines the interactions between animal, human and environmental health. She is the author of 25 peer reviewed journal articles, five textbook chapters, the co-editor of a book of short stories, the Rhino with Glue-on Shoes (2008), and the author of the National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia (2012). She is also an accomplished public speaker and has been the subject of various news interviews and television documentaries.

After receiving her bachelor's degree in biology at Brown University (1985), Dr. Spelman earned her veterinary degree from the University of California at Davis (1990), completed a one-year internship in small animal medicine at Ettinger and Associates in Los Angeles, California, and a three-year residency in Zoological Medicine at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 1994, she received her board certification from the American College of Zoological Medicine. She worked for the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo for 9.5 years (1995-2004), first as Associate Veterinarian, and then as Director. She was a media consultant for Discovery Communications in 2005 and then moved to Rwanda where she served as the Field Manager for the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (2006-2009). She returned to the United States to teach at Brown University as Visiting Assistant Professor for a year, and then moved on to RISD in September 2010 where she continues to teach. She started work at Ocean State Veterinary Specialists in January 2011.

Academic research/ areas of interest

Lucy enjoys teaching biology to any and all who are interested in animals, nature, health and wildlife conservation. Her passion for science education and outreach stems from her experiences as the director of the National Zoo at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and as the field manager for the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Rwanda. She also has considerable experience in the realm of science communication, both as the subject of various news interviews and television documentaries, and as a media consultant for the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and National Geographic.  She is also a frequent public speaker.  Her research interest is in the area of one-health medicine, an emerging field of study that examines the interactions between animal, human and environmental health.