The Way Out Of The Big Apple

1709 Words7 Pages
Worm your way out of the Big Apple, drive one hundred miles east, and you’ll find yourself gazing out at the question mark that dots the end of Long Island’s North Fork. Located a mile offshore of Orient Point, Plum Island Animal Disease Center is the rumored birthplace of the “Montauk Monster,” an international bioterrorism target, and the only place in the country that is authorized to work on live foot-and-mouth disease virus. Photographing the island is strictly prohibited. In Silence of the Lambs, it was proclaimed the “one place fit for Hannibal Lecter.” The only way to get there is by private government ferry. Trespassing deer that swim onto the island are shot and killed. But for microbiologist Brenda Donahue, Plum Island is just…show more content…
In search of a way to continue incorporating her love for animals in her work, Donahue went to veterinary school and moved back to Long Island to pursue immunology and infectious disease research in a lab in Brookville. Then, in 1997, just after the Brookville lab lost its funding, Donahue received word of a new job opening—on Plum Island. “The first time I had the job interview,” Donahue recalls, “I actually turned the job down because I thought to myself, ‘This is a crazy place to work.’” Eventually, however, the intrigue of Plum Island lured Donahue back in, and in under a year’s time, she found herself back on the island, inside the claustrophobic, window-less, negatively pressurized lab for a second interview. Twenty years later, Donahue is Plum Island’s Manager for the Repository of Transboundary Animal Diseases. “Basically,” says Donahue, “that means that I’m the keeper of all of the islets.” Plum Island’s collection of islets—or cell clusters—dates back to the 1950s, when the research facility was first established by the United States Department of Agriculture. “In the event of an outbreak,” says Donahue, “if the field wanted to ask, ‘Is this a new islet? Is this an old islet? Is this something man-made?’ they could cross-check that with me.” As a whole, Donahue’s department, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service,
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