Student Spotlight: Meredith Zahara

by: Jenny Rogers

Even from miles away, Meredith Zahara is unwavering in her pursuit of knowledge. 

After earning her bachelor’s degree in animal biology from Grand State Valley University, the Michigan native has worked at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a research associate since 2005.

Now, she is coupling her work at the commission with an online Master of Health Science with a Concentration in One Health degree from the University of Florida Department of Environmental and Global Health.

Bird necropsy, testing for brevetoxins and avian influenza. (2009)

As an online student in UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, excelling in her current position while furthering her academic interests is a priority. Needless to say, applying for the master’s program was a no-brainer.

Zahara first became interested in conservation while working for the state’s commission. There, she studies the effects of brevetoxins on shorebirds, avian influenza, emerging diseases in amphibians and effects of harmful algal bloom toxins on shellfish and the environment.

After exploring other fields including nursing and veterinary science, Zahara found her true calling in conservation work.

“For me, it’s just about that sense of giving back and contributing to something larger than myself,” she said. 

By 2025, she hopes to have earned her degree to apply her newfound knowledge in the One Health disciplines of human, animal and environmental health toward her current work.

The best part for Zahara? She can do it all from the comfort of her home in St. Petersburg.

“Doing everything fully online is just the perfect degree for me,” she said. “The professors I’ve had have been really encouraging and available.”

Moreover, Zahara applauds the professors who have made intentional efforts to make online students feel immersed in classes alongside in-person peers. 

“Sometimes, it’s difficult for those of us online to feel as involved. But we have times where everyone can be on Zoom, and having those smaller interactions makes us feel very involved.”

Though Zahara was not traditionally a fan of group projects, she actually found that connecting with classmates through assignments taught her important collaborative skills to carry forward. 

Meredith Zahara shorebird monitoring for avian influenza. (Courtney Campbell Causeway, 2006)

Additionally, the fourth-year student has taken advantage of the college’s diverse student body.

“In my program and classes, there’s a very wide range of students,” she explained. “You’ve got students that are straight out of undergrad, people like me and then, people older than me, and of all different backgrounds.”

Learning and collaborating alongside such an array of students not only taught her about other disciplines within the One Health approach, but it taught her the value of approaching solutions from a cross-disciplinary viewpoint, too. 

After she completes her master’s degree, Zahara hopes to continue to grow in her love, knowledge and commitment to conservation.

“I’ve gotten the advice: If you do something you love, you’ll never hate your work,” she said. “And you know, I really like my work. It’s taken me a while to find exactly my niche, but I’ve finally found it.”

Amphibian disease monitoring using a dissecting scope in the field. (Archbold Reserve, 2016)

Hear from former MHS One Health Student!

Make a Difference with One Health

Learn More About EGH