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Every Day is a New Day

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!

emily_week6_picIn today’s world, life is a jumble of different professional opportunities. You may not always know where your career will take you, even if you’ve already picked a career. Interns met with Torrey Pillsbury, Senior Mammal Keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and she told us how she had no idea that she’d begun a path to zoo keeping when she took a job as a horse trainer straight out of high school. Today, she loves working with the animals on the African and Asian Plains Exhibits at the Safari Park. Zoo keeping is a fun and rewarding career, but in order to handle the job, you have to be motivated and ready to get your hands dirty.

Ms. Pillsbury has been working at the San Diego Safari Park for almost 30 years. However, she became a keeper by taking a different route than keepers would need to take today. Being a zoo keeper has become very competitive and quite often those interested need a degree and a lot of previous hands-on animal experience. As a teenager, Ms. Pillsbury worked a lot with farm animals, especially horses. At only 17 years old, she was hired on to work in the Safari Park’s horse shows, alongside Joan Embry. Eventually, when the horse show closed, a friend who worked at the Park suggested that if she could ride horses, why not elephants? So she began riding elephants in the show and became the show’s first female elephant trainer.

When Ms. Pillsbury trained elephants, she became more confident working with exotic animals. After working with the elephants in the Safari Park for a few years, she went off to work at the Bronx Zoo for six years to help with their breeding program with their equine animals. She returned to San Diego after her time at the Bronx Zoo and became a mammal keeper at the Safari Park. She cares for many of the animals in the open exhibits including endangered species such as the Przewalski’s horses, the most endangered horse species on earth. At one time Ms. Pillsbury even helped to hand raise a baby gorilla!

Caring for horses and other animals isn’t simply putting them into a pen and feeding them, though. All of the animals in the Safari Park need to have strong fences that they can’t jump over or break. They also need big enough enclosures so that they will feel comfortable moving around. When we were between exhibits, we had to go pass through two different fences that stop animals from going between exhibits.

Ms. Pillsbury also makes sure that all of the exhibits look as natural as possible. Enclosures need to be clean, so, yes, keepers need to be able to shovel a lot of. In fact, keepers like Ms. Pillsbury dedicate two to three days a week to raking manure into trucks. Even so, Ms. Pillsbury says that those days are probably her favorite because she can observe the animals instead of having to keep track of them, deliver food, and record what she sees in a journal for all the keepers and vet technicians to review. There are still exciting points in her job, though. For example, sometimes keepers have to get rhinos into a pen by corralling them with trucks because they need to get them alone, usually for a check up. Ms. Pillsbury feels that her job is so important because she is responsible for a lot of different animals. Other people also rely on her, such as the vet staff who determine, from Ms. Pillsbury’s observations, if they need to bring an animal to the Harter Hospital located just next to the Safari Park.

Ms. Pillsbury learned a lot of what she knows about being a keeper on the job. For her current position, the most difficult part of the job, at first, was recognizing all the different species and individuals, because there are a lot of animals she cares for. Personally, I was surprised it wasn’t rounding up rhinos into a corral, but everyone has their opinions. On our trip, we saw Thompson’s gazelles, rhinos, buffalo, too many kinds of deer to count, Przewalksi’s horses, and by far the most memorable was the giraffes who don’t know the meaning of personal space. They stuck their heads in the truck while we were feeding them.

Although being a keeper sounds time-consuming, it’s completely worth it. While we were in the exhibit for just two hours, I saw why Ms. Pillsbury enjoys her job so much—there’s so many animals to work with. She told us she doesn’t mind leaving for work at 4:30 in the morning at all because she loves her job so much. She gets to work with animals from the other side of the globe, some of which are so endangered that they aren’t even found in the wild! Her favorite part of the job is being able to come to work every day and know that everything is going to be different from yesterday.

Emily, Careers Team
Week Six, Winter Session 2014

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Educating Everyone about Elephants

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!

emily_week5_picMany organizations and zoos around the world are making an effort to a save elephants by doing things you wouldn’t really expect- like turning an elephant pedicure session at the San Diego Zoo into an educational experience in elephant conservation. The San Diego Zoo’s main objectives are helping animals in the wild and educating as many people as possible about wildlife and threats to their survival. Two of the Zoo’s elephant keepers, Ron Ringer and Steve Herbert, explained the ways the Zoo cares for their elephants, and why it’s so important for both elephants and us, too.

Elephant Odyssey at the Zoo is one of the most unique elephant exhibits in the world. This is partly because of the constant warm weather of Southern California, which allows the elephants to roam in giant yards during the day and night instead of spending lots of time inside a barn. The amazing exhibit, which includes a keeper interaction area where you can an up-close look at the elephants, permits guests at the Zoo too see how keepers care for them, such as doing minor veterinary procedures on an elephant, drawing its blood, or giving them a pedicure. Millions of guests come every year to see these gentle giants, and this gives keepers an opportunity to tell guests about elephants.

When people are watching the elephants, they are also listening to keepers like Mr. Ringer, who has been working with the Zoo’s elephants for over 20 years. Mr. Ringer can tell guests stories and snippets about the seven elephants in the Zoo and explain how the Zoo’s partnerships help elephants in the wild. He talks to visitors about the lives of the elephants in the Zoo, what they do for fun, and how they live in the wild. For instance, he explained that each elephant at the Zoo eats an average of 125 pounds of food a day and that elephants in the wild can travel up to 50 miles in search of food. Mr. Ringer told us that elephants are important in their environment because other animals depend on them. Elephants can clear brush pretty easily when looking for food, which makes room for smaller animals to build their homes within that habitat. As off-putting as it sounds, an elephant’s poop is another thing animals rely on for food. Poop piles are breeding grounds for tiny insects like flies and beetles. All in all, elephants are big, gentle beasts that are as important as food, land and even nurseries for the different species that live alongside them.

Elephants are so important to protect because they are the largest land mammal on earth. If we lost elephants, we would also lose our integrity as humans, according to Mr. Ringer. Our society already has a difficult time protecting the environment and all the animals in it. Right now, animals are endangered and going extinct because we do things like poaching. Elephants are still poached today for their tusks of ivory that are used for jewelry, art, or traditional medicine. However, if Mr. Ringer can connect the guests to the elephants and their story, then perhaps the conservation of the species is possible. If more and more people are aware of a bad situation, it becomes more and more likely that more and more people will help.

Emily, Conservation Team
Week Five, Winter Session 2014

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Genetics, You, and the Zoo

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!

IMG_0009I bet you’ve heard about genetics and how it’s molding the world that we live in. It’s a field that’s making people look at life in an entirely new way. We had the opportunity to learn about two branches of genetics, cytogenetics and molecular genetics. Geneticists from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research explained that both cytogenetics and molecular genetics have made a huge impact on how zoos worldwide function. These researchers use methods that are extremely similar to what is used to test human genetics, solving strikingly similar problems. In fact, the reason researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research have access to so many methods and tests is because they were first developed by scientists studying human genetics!

Cytogenetics is the study of the structure and function of cells and the chromosomes within those cells. Chromosomes are bundles of genes that come in pairs, and geneticists research them so they can find out how they might affect an animal’s well-being. In cytogenetics, one of the major processes is karyotyping chromosomes, which is laying out all the chromosome in pairs and examining them. Karyotyping is important to Zoo scientists because it can determine whether an animal will have any abnormalities at birth due to their inherited genes (for example, dwarfism in California condors). This type of test is also used so human parents can find out whether or not their child will be born with disabilities such as trisomy, or Down’s syndrome, which is caused when an individual has three of the 21st chromosome instead of the usual two. Karyotyping is more difficult than it sounds. It isn’t simply laying chromosomes out in pairs and looking for irregularities—it requires a lot of hard work.

To get to an animal’s chromosomes, you need something from the animal itself that contains chromosomes, such as skin, blood, or even a feather sample. These samples must first be cultured, or grown in a special dish to allow the cells to multiply in order to be analyzed. This process includes putting the sample into a flask and giving it the right nutrients, hormones and gases. The scientists must then make sure the environment has the perfect conditions for the cells to grow, including the proper temperature. Through karyotyping, scientists may discover that an animal’s genes are valuable to the genetic variability of a species. These tissues may be stored at the Frozen Zoo®, a facility built to store and preserve valuable genetic material, where they could be used in the future to help in the conservation of endangered species.

Marisa Korody, a Research Technician at the Institute, explained the basic goals of her division and why her lab pays so much attention to chromosomes. To karyotype, Ms. Korody must break open the “box” where the chromosomes are found—the nucleus of the cell. After opening it, the chromosomes themselves are scrambled all over the place because chromosomes are not typically bound together in an organized way. Ms. Korody would then look through the chaotic jumble and find all of the chromosome pairs, ordering them from first to last. Humans have a total of 46 chromosomes, so a karyotype or complete set of chromosomes, would have 23 chromosome pairs. While the cytogeneticist who might examine human chromosomes uses the same method as Ms. Korody, the number of chromosomes varies between species. For example, California condors have 80 chromosomes. It definitely takes more time karyotyping the chromosomes of condors!

The molecular genetics division focuses on what makes animals animals—DNA. Asako Navarro, also a Research Technician in the Genetics Division at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, explained how DNA is used to discover the gender, species, or to identify the parents of an animal. This is vital when breeding endangered species. If two genetically similar members of the same species are matched together, there is less chance of genetic variability in the future and a greater possibility that mutations could occur. Genetic variability is an important contributor to the health of a species. Molecular geneticists use a process known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to get DNA from an animal or human sample. They replicate a single strand of DNA thousands of times in a matter of hours. This makes a lot of copies of the desired genes, allowing Ms. Navarro to investigate the animal’s genetic code.

In the field of genetics, we have found ways to help both animals and humans. Scientist working in the field of human genetics use the same techniques as Zoo researchers to figure out the parental identity of babies, or whether or not a baby will have a chromosomal abnormality. Molecular genetics and cytogenetics are helping scientists solve bigger problems too, such as understanding how genetic mutations cause common diseases found throughout human and animal populations. To sum it all up, these two branches of genetics are not only helping us understand ourselves and the world around us, but Zoo geneticists are becoming an important component to the health of endangered species.

Emily, Real World Team
Week Four, Winter Session 2014

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Owl in a Day’s Work

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!

emily_week4_picOpportunities are found everywhere in this crazy world we live in, and anyone can venture down the path to where they want to go. For Coleen Wisinski, this is the absolute truth, she has travelled the globe both nationally and internationally doing what she loves: working to make animal’s lives better in the field.

Ms. Wisinski’s workload concerns mostly birds, specifically burrowing owls. She works in the Applied Animal Ecology Division at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, which is when biologists go into the field to work indirectly with the animals in their environment. The project that she’s currently working with is the “Adaptive Management Approach to Recovering Grassland Ecosystem” in San Diego County. It’s a mouthful, isn’t it? However wordy it is, it’s still only three years old, each year containing different goals.

For the first couple of years of the project, Ms. Wisinski was focused mainly on relocating the California ground squirrels, a component the burrowing owl depends on, to grassland biomes where burrowing owl populations are found. In the third year, she got more involved with the overall ecosystem of the burrowing owl. Specifically, she observes the species in its environment and how it interacts with the other wildlife in the region. These observations were done a variety of ways; cleverly planting cameras next to active burrows, banding them for identification purposes, and taking either blood or feather samples so that their DNA may be of use in the future. All of these efforts contribute to the owls’ conservation and help researchers monitor them more closely.

Relocating the ground squirrels doesn’t sound very important, does it? The California ground squirrel is responsible for feeding many predators in the grassland environment, from coyotes to raptors. The ground squirrel is also valuable in another unique way. They dig out deep and complex tunnel systems, which the burrowing owls will then occupy, live in, lay their eggs, and ultimately raise their young. Ms. Wisinski’s job is extremely important for the wellbeing of the burrowing owls because she is attempting to get a better idea of how people can help them live in an environment that is suffering.

Although Ms. Wisinski loves working with the burrowing owls, she didn’t always know what she wanted to do. When she first started college, she got bachelor’s degrees in both Biology and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin. While in school in Wisconsin, she got a glimpse into other kinds of wildlife careers she could pursue when she was involved with the Wildlife Rehabilitation program at her school. She then went on to get a Fish and Wildlife Management master’s degree from Montana State University. It was there that she also was able to work in the field tracking and researching Sage-Grouse in Montana. In doing this, she discovered what she really wanted to do: field biology.

After she had completed her master’s degree, Ms. Wisinski went on to do more wildlife research in Argentina, which further intensified her love of field biology. Upon returning from Argentina, she went back to Wisconsin to work with the Whooping Crane Reintroduction program. There, she monitored the migration pattern of cranes from Wisconsin to Florida and was keeping track of the signaling devices placed on them. She told us that although it was tedious and sometimes frustrating, it was fulfilling when she finally completed the project.

Ms. Wisinski told us that she loves field biology because of her sense of wanderlust. Even as a teenager, she knew she wanted a career where she would be able to travel to different places and experience different parts of the world. Throughout her career, she always found something good about the places she went, whether it was the animals or the people making a difference in their home’s environment. Although she isn’t involved in the more widely known about conservation projects, like the giant panda, she’s very passionate about what she does and is focused intently on how she can help improve the lives of the grassland critters in San Diego.

Emily, Careers Team
Week Three, Winter Session 2014

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Creepy Crawlers Can Be Cool, Too!

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 jobs, and the blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

Insects… are they intriguing or nightmarish? Whatever side you’re on in this debate, bugs are undeniably complex and puzzling. Ester Chang, a Senior Entomology Keeper at San Diego Zoo, led us through the back of the Insect House and talked about current projects she and her colleagues are working on. Ms. Chang has worked inside the Zoo’s Insect House, which resembles a museum, for six years. She told us that she’s always loved bugs, and that we should really make an effort to keep them around because they keep the environment stable.

This exhibit houses one of the most complex social insects in the world, the leafcutter ant. These ants are essentially the gardeners of the forest, restricting surplus foliage by trimming down the overgrowth. Most of this gardening work is done by the worker ants, one of the several kinds of ants in a colony. Each type of ant helps the colony grow and are able to be harmonious in their own way. For instance, the soldier ants keep the colony safe, and male and female drones begin their own colonies. Estimates say that there are over nine million leafcutter ants worldwide, and all of them are keeping their gardens neat.

This exhibit houses one of the most complex social insects in the world, the leafcutter ant. These ants are essentially the gardeners of the forest, restricting surplus foliage by trimming down the overgrowth. Most of this gardening work is done by the worker ants, one of the several kinds of ants in a colony. Each type of ant helps the colony grow and are able to be harmonious in their own way. For instance, the soldier ants keep the colony safe, and male and female drones begin their own colonies. Estimates say that there are over nine million leafcutter ants worldwide, and all of them are keeping their gardens neat.

In the back room of the Insect House, two glass containers also house ants. This allows keepers to both feed the ants and give them a more spacious environment that mimics a real tunnel system. The twisting branch also gives off a more natural feeling for the ants as it suspends them in the air. Leafcutter ants in the wild also travel up into trees in order to tear off bits from leaves. The camera to the left of the case allows keepers to take video of the ants.

Ms. Chang showed us what a queen leafcutter ant looks like. This little bug is responsible for populating the entire colony, including soldier ants, worker ants, or drones that can become queen ants for new colonies.

Ms. Chang showed us what a queen leafcutter ant looks like. This little bug is responsible for populating the entire colony, including soldier ants, worker ants, or drones that can become queen ants for new colonies.

This dead leaf mantis demonstrated one of the ways to eat a cricket—from the bottom up. The dead leaf mantis’ camouflage is its namesake, as it looks almost exactly like a dead leaf, the only giveaway being its thin legs. This is a female mantis, and male mantises are even skinnier and smaller in comparison. Mantises are known for having peculiar mating habits that usually involve the male’s head getting ripped off and then eaten. This mantis is eating the cricket similarly, except this time, the leg first.

This dead leaf mantis demonstrated one of the ways to eat a cricket—from the bottom up. The dead leaf mantis’ camouflage is its namesake, as it looks almost exactly like a dead leaf, the only giveaway being its thin legs. This is a female mantis, and male mantises are even skinnier and smaller in comparison. Mantises are known for having peculiar mating habits that usually involve the male’s head getting ripped off and then eaten. This mantis is eating the cricket similarly, except this time, the leg first.

We were also shown another species of mantis, the Ghost mantis. It’s much smaller than the dead leaf mantis, but it also comes in different colors from dark brown to a light green. No matter what color it is, it will be able to blend in perfectly to its forest environment.

The San Diego Zoo is the only place that houses some rare species of katydids. Senior Entomology Keeper Ester Chang held this long-legged katydid up for us, allowing us to touch its soft and leaf-like wings. This one in particular is very old, and it shows! As the katydid grows older, its camouflage grows more impeccable with time.

The San Diego Zoo is the only place that houses some rare species of katydids. Senior Entomology Keeper Ester Chang held this long-legged katydid up for us, allowing us to touch its soft and leaf-like wings. This one in particular is very old, and it shows! As the katydid grows older, its camouflage grows more impeccable with time.

Ms. Chang took us to the room where the Zoo houses their arachnids. Every single container had either a spider or a scorpion in it. These ones, however, only have tarantulas in them. There are two kinds of tarantulas, New World and Old World. The Old World tarantulas have built silk webs in their enclosures. They do this so their young don’t touch the forest floor where dangerous predators may be.

Ms. Chang took us to the room where the Zoo houses their arachnids. Every single container had either a spider or a scorpion in it. These ones, however, only have tarantulas in them. There are two kinds of tarantulas, New World and Old World. The Old World tarantulas have built silk webs in their enclosures. They do this so their young don’t touch the forest floor where dangerous predators may be.

Some of the individual enclosures have these brightly colored tags on them, pointing out which animals are venomous. If a keeper is bitten, the tag states which animal bit them so the keeper can be given the specific care they need.

Quino Checkerspot butterflies have become endangered within the last century, and the San Diego Zoo has come to their aid. Here, this room has been turned into an area for the butterflies, allowing them to produce more offspring. This conservation project is relatively new, but the prospects for it are high. With projects like these, the Zoo hopes that the butterflies will be able to rise up to their previous numbers, one of the Zoo’s overall goals for all animals.

Quino Checkerspot butterflies have become endangered within the last century, and the San Diego Zoo has come to their aid. Here, this room has been turned into an area for the butterflies, allowing them to produce more offspring. This conservation project is relatively new, but the prospects for it are high. With projects like these, the Zoo hopes that the butterflies will be able to rise up to their previous numbers, one of the Zoo’s overall goals for all animals.

Emily, Photography Team
Week Two, Winter Session 2014

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Hospitals Make for Healthy Animals

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 jobs, and the blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

San Diego Zoo Safari Park is responsible for all the creatures that call it home. This means that all of the animals that get hurt need to be treated immediately by a trained animal medical staff. We were shown the inner workings of the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Care Center, the hospital in charge of this extremely important task, by Veterinarian Technician, Kristen McCaffree who has worked at the hospital for over twenty years. Almost every room in the hospital has a purpose that coincides directly with helping sick or injured animals recover and keeping the animals healthy.

One of our first stops was this conference room. Inside this room, the hospital staff meets every day to ensure that all the animals are being cared for. They discuss which animals need to be checked and their current status. Cameras are one of the tools the hospital staff uses to monitor the animals. They are installed in different animal areas and are useful to track whether or not an animal’s health has stabilized, improved, or worsened.

One of our first stops was this conference room. Inside this room, the hospital staff meets every day to ensure that all the animals are being cared for. They discuss which animals need to be checked and their current status. Cameras are one of the tools the hospital staff uses to monitor the animals. They are installed in different animal areas and are useful to track whether or not an animal’s health has stabilized, improved, or worsened.

This sheet is the “Hospital Active Case” list that catalogues every animal within the hospital. It lists their species, ID, injury or sickness, treatment plan, and the date they were brought into the facility. However, some animals listed, such as the Hawaiian crow, or Alala, are placed in the facility for long-term placement.  The Hawaiian crow has been checked into the hospital because of its San Diego Zoo Wildlife Conservancy project. You can read more about the project at http://www.sandiegozooglobal.org/News/san_diego_zoos_conservation_of_hawaiian_alala_birds_sets_new_breeding_recor/.

This sheet is the “Hospital Active Case” list that catalogues every animal within the hospital. It lists their species, ID, injury or sickness, treatment plan, and the date they were brought into the facility. However, some animals listed, such as the Hawaiian crow, or Alala, are placed in the facility for long-term placement. The Hawaiian crow has been checked into the hospital because of a San Diego Zoo Wildlife Conservancy project. You can read more about the project at http://www.sandiegozooglobal.org.

This giraffe was checked in because it had problems digesting its mother’s milk. Although it went in for that reason, hospital staff kept it in for longer because they saw it had another health issue occurring. Hospital staff always has to be on their toes so they can figure out the reasons for why the animals are sick, how they got sick, and how they can prevent them from getting sick in the future.

This giraffe was checked in because it had problems digesting its mother’s milk. Although it went in for that reason, hospital staff kept it in for longer because they saw it had another health issue occurring. Hospital staff always has to be on their toes so they can figure out the reasons for why the animals are sick, how they got sick, and how they can prevent them from getting sick in the future.

The x-ray room in the hospital functions no differently from the one you would go to at the doctor. The procedure for checking on an animal, however, requires a different strategy. Many different types of animals of all sizes use this room. The large doors to the right side of the room let the animals into the room. The largest animal to ever come to the hospital was a rhinoceros, one of the most endangered animals at the Safari Park. The hospital staff is given a very important task taking care of these rare species, and they don’t take their jobs lightly.

The x-ray room in the hospital functions no differently from the one you would go to at the doctor. The procedure for checking on an animal, however, requires a different strategy. Many different types of animals of all sizes use this room. The large doors to the right side of the room let the animals into the room. The largest animal to ever come to the hospital was a rhinoceros, one of the most endangered animals at the Safari Park. The hospital staff is given a very important task taking care of these rare species, and they don’t take their jobs lightly.

The hospital contains all the specific medications (much like your local pharmacy) for every animal under its care. Each type of medicine must be carefully measured for accuracy by the medical staff, like Ms. McCaffree.

The hospital contains all the specific medications (much like your local pharmacy) for every animal under its care. Each type of medicine must be carefully measured for accuracy by the medical staff, like Ms. McCaffree.

This bag holds the anesthetics responsible for sedating animals. The procedure for getting an animal sedated and onto the truck must be timely and efficient not only to reduce stress for the animal of concern but also for the other animals in the surrounding areas are not overwhelmed or alarmed.

This bag holds the anesthetics responsible for sedating animals. The procedure for getting an animal sedated and onto the truck must be timely and efficient not only to reduce stress for the animal of concern but also for the other animals in the surrounding areas are not overwhelmed or alarmed.

How does the hospital receive the animals in the first place? These trucks, or “vet packs,” let keepers transport animals from their enclosures to the hospital easily. A single truck contains all the supplies a needed to quickly check up on an animal: oxygen tanks, surgical packs, tranquilizer kits, and even hoof trimming kits.

How does the hospital receive the animals in the first place? These trucks, or “vet packs,” let keepers transport animals from their enclosures to the hospital easily. A single truck contains all the supplies a needed to quickly check up on an animal: oxygen tanks, surgical packs, tranquilizer kits, and even hoof trimming kits.

All the food for the animals in the hospital is stored on these shelves. The vet technicians need to measure out the food an animal will receive for each meal. From greens to rodents, every animal will be guaranteed a nutritious meal.

All the food for the animals in the hospital is stored on these shelves. The vet technicians need to measure out the food an animal will receive for each meal. From greens to rodents, every animal will be guaranteed a nutritious meal.

Every single animal that has spent time in the hospital has a file. This helps hospital staff figure out if an animal has a reoccurring problem if it checks back into the hospital. Even animals who are now gone still have files, and new patients come in nearly every day.

Every single animal that has spent time in the hospital has a file. This helps hospital staff figure out if an animal has a reoccurring problem if it checks back into the hospital. Even animals who are now gone still have files, and new patients come in nearly every day.

In the hospital’s laboratory, we were shown some of the things that hospital staff collects from animals while they visit. These jars contain kidney stones from all sorts of animals, from tortoises to gazelles. The hospital staff also removes pests from the animals, such as tics, fleas and tapeworms that can harm the animal’s overall health. These samples can stay in the lab for years for future reference if anything like this occurs again. For instance, the jar on the top left is now eleven years old!

In the hospital’s laboratory, we were shown some of the things that hospital staff collects from animals while they visit. These jars contain kidney stones from all sorts of animals, from tortoises to gazelles. The hospital staff also removes pests from the animals, such as tics, fleas and tapeworms that can harm the animal’s overall health. These samples can stay in the lab for years for future reference if anything like this occurs again. For instance, the jar on the top left is now eleven years old!

Emily, Photography Team
Week Two, Winter Session 2014

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Representing Reptiles

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 jobs, and the blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

emily_W1_picMost people know the basics of conservation—protecting endangered animals from extinction—but not many understand what conserving a species really entails. There is a wide variety of goals that conservationists intend to achieve, including informing the public about endangered species and how people can help them. This is exactly what our Educator Guide and Reptile Keeper, Peter Gilson, aspires to do. 

Mr. Gilson’s job as an educator seriously helps the efforts of those protecting the environment because he helps guests understand why reptiles are important. He explained to us how much of an impact all animals have on the world because they all have a major role to play. With one gone, another animal that was dependent on that animal might also leave, and this simply spirals into a downward domino-like effect within that habitat.  However, if more and more people are informed and told that they have the power to help, maybe we could avoid another one of those downward spirals.

Mr. Gilson led the interns throughout the reptile and amphibian exhibits at the San Diego Zoo. He showed us various species and told us about how they are being affected both negatively and positively by humans. For instance, the Zoo cares for one of the most endangered fresh-water turtles in the world, the Roti Island snake-necked turtle. The Zoo breeds these turtles at a highly successful rate, but due to poaching and habitat loss, it is nearly impossible to reintroduce them back into the wild. However, there is progress being made towards educating people in areas where poaching and deforestation take place by programs such as the Turtle Survival Alliance in Southeast Asia. These organizations require time and effort from everyone involved, but they also make a huge difference.

Conserving an animal species is no easy feat, especially when it seems like every factor is against it. We learned that the differences between reptiles and amphibians create different conservation challenges. Amphibians are much more sensitive than reptiles and the keepers must be very careful when handling them. In the wild, amphibians are impacted by many threats, including both water pollution and climate change. Pesticides and chemicals running into an amphibian’s water-source can cause serious mutations, such as extra limbs, loss of eyes, and general deformation. Climate change brings about not only a severe temperature change that affects the delicate skin of amphibians, but is also a hypothesized factor in the spread of lethal Chytrid fungus. This fungus is responsible for entering an amphibian’s skin and thereby reducing their ability to move and breathe. Although we cannot get this fungus out of the forest, there are assurance programs that are attempting to rescue species that are the most significantly infected by the disease. It is also hoped that some survivors might build resistance towards it in future generations.

Conservation is not just about protecting endangered animals, but also about making sure they can be released back into the wild without fear of becoming negatively impacted once again by opposing factors. Someone like you could help by spreading the word about how people’s actions impact an animal and their habitats. These actions could be as simple as conserving energy or donating a few dollars to an organization that promotes conservation. It takes work to change anything, but people’s day-to-day habits can be swayed if one person takes the time to make the change.

Emily, Conservation Team
Week One, Winter Session 2014

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Me, Myself, and InternQuest

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 jobs, and the blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

emilyGreetings, reader! My name is Emily, but don’t allow that to be my defining quality. So let me introduce myself. I am a junior in high school and I love to use my sparse amounts of free time to read, write, and sketch. It can also be a guaranteed fact that, if you find me alone in either my room or on the bus, I’ll be listening to a wide spectrum of music, from Indie folk to simple melodies. However, my love for art is nowhere near as strong as my love for animals.

I currently house only one pet, a ten-year old cat that I’ve had for over half my life, but I have always had a heart for all animals, whether they be in the sky, on the ground, or in the sea. The animal kingdom has always intrigued me because there is always something to discover, something to observe, and something to preserve.

Even as a child, I would flip through entire encyclopedias about animals in an attempt to know something about every single species that roams the Earth. I remember going to zoos numerous times as a child and thinking how small I was compared to the towering giraffes that took treats from my hand, how immensely enormous the elephants were compared to my small stature, and how I felt that it was my destiny to work with these animals. So, when I heard about Zoo InternQuest, I practically leapt into the application papers, excited about where it could take me.

My animal-loving characteristics have stayed with me over time, and I have grown to love the environment and all the creatures that inhabit it. I always have something to do, whether it is reading a book, writing a story, or finishing a drawing that I’ve started. I also dabble in photography, as I like taking pictures of the places I go for others to see. I’m very excited to be a part of Zoo InternQuest, and hope that you will follow my blogs throughout the next seven weeks!

Emily
Winter Session 2014