A Woman with a Cause

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Sun bears are part of Ms. Hall's studies.

Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs, and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

Suzanne Hall, a senior research technician working for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, gave us a tour of the Giant Panda Research Station here at the San Diego Zoo and taught us all about her career. How did Suzanne Hall get to where she is now, you ask? Through hard work and her intense love for animals, Ms. Hall grew up to realize that she wanted to make a difference in the lives of bears. She went to college at the University of California, San Diego, and began to study ecology and psychology with an emphasis in animal behavior and evolution. Throughout college she also volunteered at the Institute. It was there that she worked with animals like polar bears and rhinoceros. Here she was able to find her passion for bears and continued on to work in the Applied Animal Ecology Division at the Institute.

Ms. Hall observes animals in the Zoo for a long period of time, sometimes for months, to study all of the behaviors that a specific animal demonstrates. She records her information that is observed using an ethogram, which is a list of animal behaviors that the technician observes. This is an important tool because researchers like Ms. Hall need to be able to find information easily so that they can apply their research to bears in managed care and produce a self-sustaining population.

One of the things that Ms. Hall loves about her job is that she gets to travel all around the world to places like Mexico and China to observe the bears in facilities there. Ms. Hall is also planning a trip to Borneo to study sun bear cubs that have been orphaned. However, when Ms. Hall is not traveling, she spends time with the volunteers and groups that come to the Panda Research Station at the Zoo, allowing her the chance to share her knowledge about bears and ways we can help these animals. Ms. Hall also does outreach, going to different schools and facilities to educate kids and adults all about endangered bears. Ms. Hall explains that this is the part of her job that makes her feel like she is making an impact, because ever since she was in college her goal was to help and protect these endangered bears.

If there are any of you out there that are passionate and dedicated about conservation or studying animal behavior, Ms. Hall recommends doing a lot of internships or volunteer work. She says that the earlier you can get your foot in the door with any programs, the better chance you have. So why not try going into your local vet clinic, animal shelter, or zoo, and sign up for some volunteer services.

Emma, Careers Team (week 2)