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About Author: Kylie

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Sunshine on the Future’s Horizon

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

 This week, interns had the opportunity to meet Torrey Pillsbury and Roger Petersen, two Senior Mammal Keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. They are in charge of caring for some of the animals in the main field exhibits, specifically the area that the keepers call the north run. When out observing the animals, Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Petersen take detailed notes on the behaviors of the animals and mark when a new baby is born to keep accurate records.

Originally opened as a breeding center for the San Diego Zoo, the Safari Park has since prospered into an attraction of its own. One of the Safari Park’s main goals is to educate the public about how they can make a difference in the conservation of animals and be a hero for wildlife. Ms. Pillsbury explained how the Safari Park also focuses on the breeding of exotic and endangered species so they can maintain a genetically healthy and viable population. It is the San Diego Zoo Global’s hope that eventually endangered species will be released back into the wild after the threat of its native habitat is no longer a problem.

Just recently, six female southern white rhinos were flown in from South Africa to help with the rhino breeding program at the Park. These rhinos will not only help with the near threatened southern white rhino population, but also play a role in trying to bring the critically endangered northern white rhino back from the brink of extinction. Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Rogers play a vital role in maintaining the environment of a variety of animals that may later be moved to another facility for breeding purposes.

Since its founding, the Safari Park has been very successful in researching the breeding behaviors of rhinos and is now one of the best at breeding southern white rhinos. Last month, a new southern white rhino was born at the Park. The calf was named Kianga for the Swahili word sunshine, she is sure to brighten the future for the southern white rhino species. She is the 94th rhino calf born at the Safari Park, and when she matures, Kianga will either stay at the Park or be moved to another zoo to become part of the global breeding program.

Other animals in the African and Asian plains exhibits are constantly being moved to and from the Park to ensure a successful and healthy breeding program. Ms. Pillsbury mentioned how birth records of all the animals are shared with the studbook keepers who are in control of determining when an animal will move so that its genes do not become overrepresented. Eventually, these animals are moved to reserves so that their species can slowly be reintroduced into the wild. When an animal is going to be transferred from the Safari Park, it is Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Petersen’s job to move the animal into temporary holding and ensure it remains healthy and comfortable in its new situation.

Although very concerned with exotic species around the world, Ms. Pillsbury explained how the Safari Park also works locally to ensure the conservation and preservation of some endangered species here in San Diego. Mr. Petersen mentioned how the Safari Park has put aside acres of land, known as the back 900, to preserve the endangered coastal sage scrub species. These plants are slowly losing population due to more frequent wildfires and increased land development. While many may simply think of exotic animal species as being vulnerable, it is important to remember the native species that can be found in your own backyard.

Kylie, Conservation Team
Week Six, Fall 2015

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The Evidence is in the Slides

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

 This week, interns had the opportunity to meet with Megan McCarthy, Resident Zoological Pathologist, and Yvonne Cates, Histology Technician, to learn about what happens to an animal after it dies. Animals from both the Zoo and Safari Park come to the Wildlife Disease Labs to be examined in order to try to determine the cause of death. The most common animals are small birds, but the pathologists work with deceased animals as large as an elephant.

Megan McCarthy is a Resident Zoological Pathologist at the Zoo. She first received an undergraduate degree in economics before deciding to go back to school to study to be a vet. After graduating from vet school from NC State, Dr. McCarthy applied to UC Davis to do a residency program to learn about being a zoo pathologist. She currently works with five other zoological pathologists at the zoo.

Megan McCarthy is a Resident Zoological Pathologist at the Zoo. She first received an undergraduate degree in economics before deciding to go back to school to study to be a vet. After graduating from vet school from NC State, Dr. McCarthy applied to UC Davis to do a residency program to learn about being a zoo pathologist. She currently works with five other zoological pathologists at the zoo.

Interns first walked to the Wildlife Disease Lab, part of the Zoological Hospital and Biological Research Center, to began to explore the process of examining a deceased animal. Here, Dr. McCarthy showed us a presentation depicting what she does every day and why it is important to pay attention to the animals that have passed. Included in the presentation were three cases that the interns worked through to determine the possible cause of death of each animal.

Interns first walked to the Wildlife Disease Lab, part of the Zoological Hospital and Biological Research Center, to began to explore the process of examining a deceased animal. Here, Dr. McCarthy showed us a presentation depicting what she does every day and why it is important to pay attention to the animals that have passed. Included in the presentation were three cases that the interns worked through to determine the possible cause of death of each animal.

Half of Dr. McCarthy’s job involves working at her microscope and analyzing tissue samples on the cellular level. As a pathologist, she looks at possible pathogens found in an animal that may have been the cause of death. In some cases, such as when dealing with a virus, Dr. McCarthy is unable to see the true pathogen and instead looks for signs that the pathogen did pass through the specific area. Those working in molecular pathology will take this a step further and use a scanning electron microscope to analyze the sample on a molecular level.

Half of Dr. McCarthy’s job involves working at her microscope and analyzing tissue samples on the cellular level. As a pathologist, she looks at possible pathogens found in an animal that may have been the cause of death. In some cases, such as when dealing with a virus, Dr. McCarthy is unable to see the true pathogen and instead looks for signs that the pathogen did pass through the specific area. Those working in molecular pathology will take this a step further and use a scanning electron microscope to analyze the sample on a molecular level.

After a quick introduction, interns walked to the histology lab to find out what it takes to make the samples of animal tissue visible under the microscope. There are many steps that go into preparing these slides, and a great deal of care goes into it. One slip up could prevent the zoological pathologists to properly analyze the sample for the animal’s cause of death.

After a quick introduction, interns walked to the histology lab to find out what it takes to make the samples of animal tissue visible under the microscope. There are many steps that go into preparing these slides, and a great deal of care goes into it. One slip up could prevent the zoological pathologists to properly analyze the sample for the animal’s cause of death.

Yvette Cates is a Histology Technician in charge of preparing the samples. In the containers are tissue samples taken by the zoological pathologists from various parts of the deceased animals. The tissue samples are currently being ‘fixed’ by using formalin to denature the proteins and stop the process of the tissues breaking down.

Yvette Cates is a Histology Technician in charge of preparing the samples. In the containers are tissue samples taken by the zoological pathologists from various parts of the deceased animals. The tissue samples are currently being ‘fixed’ by using formalin to denature the proteins and stop the process of the tissues breaking down.

After fixing, the samples are put into this machine to remove the excess water and replace the open spots with paraffin. This process takes 6 to 8 hours, so Ms. Cates leaves the machine to do its job overnight. The paraffin makes the tissue samples last for a long time; some of the tissue samples in the histology lab are from over 30 years ago.

After fixing, the samples are put into this machine to remove the excess water and replace the open spots with paraffin. This process takes 6 to 8 hours, so Ms. Cates leaves the machine to do its job overnight. The paraffin makes the tissue samples last for a long time; some of the tissue samples in the histology lab are from over 30 years ago.

After being sliced, the tissue samples are moved to this machine to stain different parts of the cells. Each color will highlight a different structure when placed under the microscope. Some of the stains are made in the histology lab by following a recipe, and others are ordered from various places across the country.

After being sliced, the tissue samples are moved to this machine to stain different parts of the cells. Each color will highlight a different structure when placed under the microscope. Some of the stains are made in the histology lab by following a recipe, and others are ordered from various places across the country.

Once stained, the tissue sample slides are ready to be examined by the zoological pathologists. Each case requires a different amount of slides, with a small frog requiring only a couple and a large elephant requiring dozens. This is because more samples are taken from various parts of the same tissue to ensure a good representation of the organ as a whole.

Once stained, the tissue sample slides are ready to be examined by the zoological pathologists. Each case requires a different amount of slides, with a small frog requiring only a couple and a large elephant requiring dozens. This is because more samples are taken from various parts of the same tissue to ensure a good representation of the organ as a whole.

Occasionally, a different type of process needs to be done to show the animal’s structure as a whole. In the case of this frog, all of the tissues were left transparent and only the skeletal structure was stained. This frog had some leg abnormalities, so only staining the skeletal structure made it easier to find where the problem started.

Occasionally, a different type of process needs to be done to show the animal’s structure as a whole. In the case of this frog, all of the tissues were left transparent and only the skeletal structure was stained. This frog had some leg abnormalities, so only staining the skeletal structure made it easier to find where the problem started.

Next, interns visited the building where the necropsies take place. A necropsy for an animal is used in the same way that an autopsy would be used for humans. The deceased animals are taken here to receive a gross examination and have samples taken from various parts of their anatomy.

Next, interns visited the building where the necropsies take place. A necropsy for an animal is used in the same way that an autopsy would be used for humans. The deceased animals are taken here to receive a gross examination and have samples taken from various parts of their anatomy.

Before entering the necropsy room, interns were required to wear plastic shoe coverings to prevent contaminants from entering the building. In between every animal necropsy, tools and tables are sanitized to prevent the spread of disease and to help properly determine the animal’s specific cause of death. When leaving the necropsy building, it was also required for interns to step through a footbath.

Before entering the necropsy room, interns were required to wear plastic shoe coverings to prevent contaminants from entering the building. In between every animal necropsy, tools and tables are sanitized to prevent the spread of disease and to help properly determine the animal’s specific cause of death. When leaving the necropsy building, it was also required for interns to step through a footbath.

Lastly, Dr. McCarthy showed us some preserved samples taken from animals. Here, a horn is being compared to an antler in terms of bone structure and composition. Other animal sections included a section of a deer’s brain, a cross section of an elephant’s foot, and a skull from a hippo.

Lastly, Dr. McCarthy showed us some preserved samples taken from animals. Here, a horn is being compared to an antler in terms of bone structure and composition. Other animal sections included a section of a deer’s brain, a cross section of an elephant’s foot, and a skull from a hippo.

Kylie, Photo
Week Five, Fall 2015

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Career’s Digest

Have you ever wondered why the animals at the Zoo eat what they do? Meet Michael Schelgel and Katie Kerr, two of the three nutritionists at the Zoo and Safari Park. Dr. Schelgel is the Director of Nutritional Services and he supervises Dr. Kerr, the Associate Nutritionist at the Zoo. They are in charge of formulating and improving the diets of all the animals in the Zoo.

Kylie_W4_picDr. Schelgel has been working in his position for 10 years, but has had a wild journey getting there. He received his bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from Pennsylvania State University where he originally wanted to become a vet. While he was there, Dr. Schelgel got excited about nutrition and pasture management. Dr. Schelgel then went to Michigan State University to pursue a master’s and doctorate in animal sciences. There he learned about the grazing systems and hosting of steers. Five years later, Dr. Schelgel received his master’s degree and began to work on his PhD in ruminant nutrition.

After completing his PhD, Dr. Schelgel worked for the Pennsylvania Beef Council for 6 months and later instructed an animal science class at Delaware County University. He first became introduced to the Zoo when he traveled with a student to San Diego where he discovered a job opening at the Safari Park. In 2001, Dr. Schelgel was hired as an Associate Nutritionist for two years before the position was eliminated. Before getting hired back in 2005, he did a postdoc with Disney’s Animal Kingdom through the University of Florida. Since 2005, he has held the position of Director of Nutritional Services for both the Zoo and Safari Park.

Dr. Kerr started working at the San Diego Zoo only 2 months ago. She first graduated from Colorado State with a bachelor’s degree in biology and zoology, and had a keen interest in nutrition. Dr. Kerr then took a year off to complete an internship at the Saint Louis Zoo. She also began talking to a wide range of people, asking how to get into zoo nutrition. At a conference her mother encouraged her to attend, she received some advice involving which steps she should take to become a zoo nutritionist. Dr. Kerr went back to school to receive a master’s and doctorate degree from the University of Illinois where she studied both domestic and big cat nutrition. Before getting hired by the San Diego Zoo, she completed a postdoc position at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Now at the Zoo, Dr. Kerr enjoys being the Associate Nutritionist where she is in charge of a variety of exotic animal diets.

On a daily basis, Dr. Schelgel and Dr. Kerr ensure that all the animals are fed well by improving and adjusting the animals’ diets to fit each animal’s needs. Their job is similar to being an executive chef at a restaurant because they do not work directly with the food, but instead give directions to the other chefs who manage the preparation of the food. They perform body-conditioning examinations on various animals to make sure they are healthy and not over or under weight, and assist the animal hospitals when creating diets for sick or quarantined animals. All of the diets are based on the amount of energy an animal will get from the foods. To ensure the animal is receiving the correct amount of energy, they use simple math and computer programs along with their extensive knowledge of animal nutrition.

One reason both Dr. Schelgel and Dr. Kerr love being nutritionist is because they find their job similar to solving puzzles and finding solutions to problems. A majority of the time, there is very little information on a specific animal’s diet, so they must extrapolate from a more known similar animal’s diet to fit the needs of the other. They are both learning new things all the time and will continue to discover new information as the years go on.

Finally, some advice Dr. Kerr shared was to explore and take advantage of different opportunities that are even remotely interesting. Dr. Kerr explained that in order to land her dream job, she needed to think outside of the box because there was no direct path for her to become a zoo nutritionist. Dr. Kerr stresses the importance of networking and encourages people to put themselves out there. She says that you never know just whom others have connections with and urges people to let others know how interested they are in a specific subject.

Kylie, Careers Team
Week Four, Fall 2015

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Order Up!

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!

 Kylie_W3_photoEver wonder what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to providing food for some of the most diverse animals at the Zoo? This week interns had the opportunity to meet Deborah Lowe; the Nutritional Services Supervisor at the Zoo. Interns met with Ms. Lowe in the Forage Warehouse that contains all of the meat and produce needed to feed all 4,000 animals at the Zoo. Before entering, interns were required to step through a footbath to reduce the risk of spreading disease. The warehouse is also separated into the meat section and fruits/vegetables section to lower the risk of cross contamination.

After a quick intro, interns learned that Ms. Lowe is in charge of ordering and delivering the food to each area of the zoo. These different areas of the zoo are known as strings. There are typically five to six different animals in each string. Similar to the postal service, food is dropped off to a specific location at the Zoo—kind of like a mailbox. The Forage Warehouse is roughly 70 years old, and is organized into sections depending on the food item. Meat is prepared 4 days of the week with produce being prepared only 3 days. Every food item is restaurant quality with the same food vendors delivering food to schools, the naval base, and some of the restaurants downtown. Talk about a high standard of living!

On the right side of the building, there is a large produce fridge that holds numerous vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables. About 240 pounds of these fruits go to the bird department everyday. For this reason, the birds have their very own kitchen to keep up with the demand. One chopping machine is found in the kitchen and slices the fruit into various sizes to provide for a wide variety of birds. This helps cut down an estimated 8 to 20 hours of chopping by hand a week! On the left side of the forage warehouse is where all the meat is stored. Back in the day, the Zoo used to do all the prep work in the forage warehouse, with an onsite abattoir and a corral out back where people used to donate livestock. Nowadays, all prey items ordered are already prepared and frozen before they reach the Zoo. To accommodate all the frozen meat delivered, the forage warehouse has two large freezers, one at -4 degrees for meat and the other at a chilling -12 degrees for the fish. There is also a large refrigerator to defrost the frozen items used to feed the many carnivores at the Zoo.

Ms. Lowe also mentioned some of the specialty food items she has helped make for special occasions and holidays. With Halloween right around the corner, the Zoo likes to share its spirit by giving pumpkins to various animals as enrichment. Just like presenting a pet with a new toy, enrichment is used to enhance an animal’s environment and bring out an animal’s natural behaviors. Large boxes of pumpkins could be found in multiple fridges to supply the demand.

Thanks to the amazing effort by the nutritional services department, the animals at the Zoo are able to thrive. Ms. Lowe said that the most rewarding part of her job was seeing the new babies being born and knowing that providing these foods ensures a comfortable environment to foster the next generation.

Kylie Avery, Real World
Week Three, Fall 2015

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Baby Steps for Conservation

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!

Kylie_W2_picEvery birth at the San Diego Zoo is crucial to conservation around the world. So when an animal is unable to take care of its baby, a team of 5 NACU (neonatal assisted care unit) keepers steps in. Becky Kier, Senior NACU Keeper, explained what it meant to help lead the fight against extinction by raising mammals that needed assistance.

After quick introductions, interns had the opportunity to see the feeding of a baby bontebok, a species of antelope native to Africa. The bontebok was born with some health complications, so veterinarians made the decision to temporarily separate the baby from the rest of the herd. This action will allow the bontebok to receive the necessary care he would not be able to thrive without.

Ms. Kier mentioned some of the other types of animals they have helped raise in the past, such as a wallaby that only had a small chance of survival. Thanks to the amazing work from the NACU, the wallaby is doing very well today and even has a baby of her own. Another example would be a trio of fossas. One fossa, named Isa, was raised to be an animal ambassador. Isa demonstrates how vital it is to be hand-raised from birth to be able to handle various scenarios, such as a noisy crowd or a walk around the Zoo. Animal ambassadors aid in educating the public about some of the issues that species are facing in the wild. By being able to connect better with animal ambassadors, people are more willing to help make a change to directly help that species in its natural habitat. This form of teaching helps with the conservation of species from around the world.

In addition to raising animal ambassadors, the NACU aids in the global conservation efforts by sharing information. When a baby is being raised through the NACU, thorough notes are taken on the specifics of raising that animal so that they can be shared with other zoos around the world. One of the coolest projects the NACU has been a part of was assisting China with their giant pandas by giving them the necessary information to help hand-rear cubs when necessary. Traditionally, female giant pandas will give birth to two cubs, but unfortunately, giant pandas typically only have enough resources to care for one baby. That being said, zoos in China have tried to increase the giant panda’s population by caring for the second baby that otherwise would not survive. Ms. Kier and a few other NACU keepers traveled to China to help share some of their knowledge of how they care for giant panda cubs at the San Diego Zoo. Thanks to a global effort, the survival rate of nursery-reared giant panda cubs in China has leaped from 0 to 95 percent.

The NACU is helping endangered animals one newborn at a time. From aiding in the education of the next generation to sharing detailed information regarding the rearing of an animal species, the NACU plays a very important role in worldwide conservation efforts.

Kylie, Conservation Team
Week Two, Fall 2015

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Hearts and Hopes for the Herps

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 Thursday, interns had the opportunity to discover the reptile department at the San Diego Zoo. Peter Gilson, a Reptile Keeper and Educator Guide, revealed what it truly means to be a part of the reptile department. Interns visited the Galápagos tortoises, met an Anegada ground iguana, toured the behind the scenes area of the amphibian exhibits, and explored the Klauber-Shaw Reptile House.

Mr. Gilson started working for the Zoo as a program aid working with summer camps. He graduated form Point Loma Nazarene University with a bachelor’s in environmental science. Mr. Gilson has also worked at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, studying mountain yellow-legged frogs and Caribbean rock iguanas. He now works as an educator guide and loves sharing stories about some of the amazing animals found around the world. He has always been interested in herpetology, the study of reptiles, and encourages those wanting a similar career to have a broad and solid education on a variety of reptiles and amphibians as well as a lot of experience working around these types of animals.

Mr. Gilson started working for the Zoo as a program aid working with summer camps. He graduated form Point Loma Nazarene University with a bachelor’s in environmental science. Mr. Gilson has also worked at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, studying mountain yellow-legged frogs and Caribbean rock iguanas. He now works as an educator guide and loves sharing stories about some of the amazing animals found around the world. He has always been interested in herpetology, the study of reptiles, and encourages those wanting a similar career to have a broad and solid education on a variety of reptiles and amphibians as well as a lot of experience working around these types of animals.

This is one of the Zoo’s Galápagos tortoises resting in the shade. The two found in this enclosure are believed to be around 120 years old, and are named Abigail and Grandma. A Galápagos tortoise can measure up to 6 feet long, 4 feet wide, and weigh up to 600 pounds. These two have a top speed of about 4 miles a day and eat a variety of grasses, as well as carrots, watermelon, and yams. These tortoises are native to the Galápagos Islands in habitats anywhere from grassy open areas to rocky volcanic outcroppings. Even though these tortoises have no natural predators on the islands, they are listed as endangered due to hunting by humans and invasive species.

This is one of the Zoo’s Galápagos tortoises resting in the shade. The two found in this enclosure are believed to be around 120 years old, and are named Abigail and Grandma. A Galápagos tortoise can measure up to 6 feet long, 4 feet wide, and weigh up to 600 pounds. These two have a top speed of about 4 miles a day and eat a variety of grasses, as well as carrots, watermelon, and yams. These tortoises are native to the Galápagos Islands in habitats anywhere from grassy open areas to rocky volcanic outcroppings. Even though these tortoises have no natural predators on the islands, they are listed as endangered due to hunting by humans and invasive species.

Pictured above, two interns scratching a Galápagos tortoise’s neck in what is called the “finch response”. This response is common to Galápagos tortoises because in their natural habitat, these tortoises form a mutually beneficial relationship with a species of finch. The finch will tap on a tortoise’s shell, signaling the tortoise to expose its neck. Various bugs and parasites can be found on a tortoise, which could cause them harm. When the tortoise exposes its neck, the finch swoops in and begins to eat the bugs.

Pictured above, two interns scratching a Galápagos tortoise’s neck in what is called the “finch response”. This response is common to Galápagos tortoises because in their natural habitat, these tortoises form a mutually beneficial relationship with a species of finch. The finch will tap on a tortoise’s shell, signaling the tortoise to expose its neck. Various bugs and parasites can be found on a tortoise, which could cause them harm. When the tortoise exposes its neck, the finch swoops in and begins to eat the bugs.

Pictured above is an Anegada ground iguana named Gus. The Anegada ground iguana is native to the limestone reefs of the Anegada Island in the Caribbean. This species of iguana is critically endangered, with an estimated population size of 200 individuals. The main problems include habitat degradation from livestock, and the introduction of feral dogs and cats that prey on them. Gus is about 26 years old, and is currently working on target training, where he is rewarded for placing his nose on a red target. This training is important because it can be used to move animals without stressing them out. These iguanas are fairly intelligent as they are good at recognizing colors and some can even recognize their own name.

Pictured above is an Anegada ground iguana named Gus. The Anegada ground iguana is native to the limestone reefs of the Anegada Island in the Caribbean. This species of iguana is critically endangered, with an estimated population size of 200 individuals. The main problems include habitat degradation from livestock, and the introduction of feral dogs and cats that prey on them. Gus is about 26 years old, and is currently working on target training, where he is rewarded for placing his nose on a red target. This training is important because it can be used to move animals without stressing them out. These iguanas are fairly intelligent as they are good at recognizing colors and some can even recognize their own name.

A Kaiser newt is an endangered species of amphibian found in only four streams in Iran’s Zagros Mountains. One large problem with this species, and many other species of amphibians, is the pet trade. People will capture these animals in their natural habitats, and then, sell them to pet stores around the world. These newts have been over collected, and in the last ten years, more than 80% of their population has disappeared. Of the more than 6,000 known amphibian species, at least one third of them are thought to be endangered.

A Kaiser newt is an endangered species of amphibian found in only four streams in Iran’s Zagros Mountains. One large problem with this species, and many other species of amphibians, is the pet trade. People will capture these animals in their natural habitats, and then, sell them to pet stores around the world. These newts have been over collected, and in the last ten years, more than 80% of their population has disappeared. Of the more than 6,000 known amphibian species, at least one third of them are thought to be endangered.

Pictured above, interns explore the back room that has a wide variety of amphibians and reptiles. The Zoo has about 1,300 reptiles and amphibians that are under the care of the keepers in the reptile department. While they spend less time on maintenance, the keepers spend at least an hour in the morning just checking on the couple hundred of animals they are in charge of. There are many more animals off exhibit than on exhibit, so there was a lot to look at in this back room.

Pictured above, interns explore the back room that has a wide variety of amphibians and reptiles. The Zoo has about 1,300 reptiles and amphibians that are under the care of the keepers in the reptile department. While they spend less time on maintenance, the keepers spend at least an hour in the morning just checking on the couple hundred of animals they are in charge of. There are many more animals off exhibit than on exhibit, so there was a lot to look at in this back room.

In each of these green aquariums are many different species of tadpoles. Some are so small that one could fit five of them on their fingernail. A filtration system is attached to each of the aquariums, allowing the tadpoles to experience the same temperature to ensure consistency. As they grow, they are moved to different aquariums that have a land portion as well, until they are fully grown and only have land.

In each of these green aquariums are many different species of tadpoles. Some are so small that one could fit five of them on their fingernail. A filtration system is attached to each of the aquariums, allowing the tadpoles to experience the same temperature to ensure consistency. As they grow, they are moved to different aquariums that have a land portion as well, until they are fully grown and only have land.

Pictured above is a young Panamanian golden frog in its exhibit. The Panamanian golden frog is the national animal of Panama, and it represents good luck. Brightly colored, this frog is toxic and predators should be wary if they want to make a quick meal out of one.

Pictured above is a young Panamanian golden frog in its exhibit. The Panamanian golden frog is the national animal of Panama, and it represents good luck. Brightly colored, this frog is toxic and predators should be wary if they want to make a quick meal out of one.

This is an adult Panamanian golden frog. As the frog grows older, the color becomes darker until it reaches a golden orange color. These frogs are extinct in the wild because of the chytrid fungus, which is fungus that attacks the skin of amphibians. Being that amphibians breathe through their skin, this fungus is often times a death sentence unless the frog receives immediate care. Once infected, the amphibian will die in a week. The San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation is the best place in the nation for testing amphibians to see if they are infected. Huge precautions are taken when moving amphibians around the nation or between countries as this fungus has been found in North, Central and South America as well as Africa, Europe, and Eastern Asia.

This is an adult Panamanian golden frog. As the frog grows older, the color becomes darker until it reaches a golden orange color. These frogs are extinct in the wild because of the chytrid fungus, which is fungus that attacks the skin of amphibians. Being that amphibians breathe through their skin, this fungus is often times a death sentence unless the frog receives immediate care. Once infected, the amphibian will die in a week. The San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation is the best place in the nation for testing amphibians to see if they are infected. Huge precautions are taken when moving amphibians around the nation or between countries as this fungus has been found in North, Central and South America as well as Africa, Europe, and Eastern Asia.

Mr. Gilson is showing interns a variety of tools used to care for the reptiles at the Zoo. Some venomous snakes, like the spitting cobra, require the keepers to wear a face shield. The spitting cobra is able to spit venom into the eyes of a predator, causing the predator to become blind. The keepers wear these face shields when they are in direct contact with the snakes to ensure their safety.

Mr. Gilson is showing interns a variety of tools used to care for the reptiles at the Zoo. Some venomous snakes, like the spitting cobra, require the keepers to wear a face shield. The spitting cobra is able to spit venom into the eyes of a predator, causing the predator to become blind. The keepers wear these face shields when they are in direct contact with the snakes to ensure their safety.

Inside the incubation room in the Reptile House, there are a lot of boxes with reptile eggs. Artificial incubation is the most efficient way of incubating reptile eggs as it ensures a constant temperature. The box pictured above holds the egg for a flat-tail tortoise. This egg is special because the egg needs to go through diapause in order to hatch. Diapause is like hibernation for an egg, so this egg needs to be heated and then cooled for a specific amount of time. After the time is up, it needs to be brought back to a warmer temperature in order to hatch. If the egg is not brought back up to temperature at the right time, it will not hatch. The egg can then be cooled again for a year and the keepers can try to bring it back up to temperature at the right time again. It takes between 8 and 10 months for this egg to hatch.

Inside the incubation room in the Reptile House, there are a lot of boxes with reptile eggs. Artificial incubation is the most efficient way of incubating reptile eggs as it ensures a constant temperature. The box pictured above holds the egg for a flat-tail tortoise. This egg is special because the egg needs to go through diapause in order to hatch. Diapause is like hibernation for an egg, so this egg needs to be heated and then cooled for a specific amount of time. After the time is up, it needs to be brought back to a warmer temperature in order to hatch. If the egg is not brought back up to temperature at the right time, it will not hatch. The egg can then be cooled again for a year and the keepers can try to bring it back up to temperature at the right time again. It takes between 8 and 10 months for this egg to hatch.

These two tortoises are young flat-tailed tortoises. Their specie’s egg was pictured earlier. Some of the eggs in the incubation room have temperature dependent sex determination. This means that the temperature at which the eggs are incubated determines the sex of the reptile. This is very helpful when it comes to breeding because if there is already a surplus of males, the temperature can be adjusted to increase the chances of more females being hatched in the next generation.

These two tortoises are young flat-tailed tortoises. Their species’ egg was pictured earlier. Some of the eggs in the incubation room have temperature dependent sex determination. This means that the temperature at which the eggs are incubated determines the sex of the reptile. This is very helpful when it comes to breeding because if there is already a surplus of males, the temperature can be adjusted to increase the chances of more females being hatched in the next generation.

Mr. Gilson is holding a Caiman lizard named Pitufo. She is an animal ambassador used to teach the public. Her name is Pitufo, the Spanish word for smurf, because she is smaller than the average Caiman lizard. The Caiman lizard is a distant cousin of the tegu, another heavy bodied lizard. They are native to South America and share their name with the caiman because of their similar characteristics.

Mr. Gilson is holding a Caiman lizard named Pitufo. She is an animal ambassador used to teach the public. Her name is Pitufo, the Spanish word for smurf, because she is smaller than the average Caiman lizard. The Caiman lizard is a distant cousin of the tegu, another heavy bodied lizard. They are native to South America and share their name with the caiman because of their similar characteristics.

Kylie, Photo Team
Week One, Fall 2015

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A Biologist at Heart

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!

kylie_profileGrowing up, I always had an interest in wildlife and the environment. I grew up not far from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and would spend a great amount of my free time there. Every television show I used to watch had exotic animals and an adventurous theme. In elementary school, I used to pretend to rescue stranded sea turtles from the playground and release them back into the wild, after they received the care they needed of course.

Now a senior in high school, I am involved in biology and conservation projects and am a member of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Conservation Corps, a program for high school students to get involved with hands on conservation, education, community service, and public speaking. When I heard about the Zoo’s InternQuest, I knew this was the perfect opportunity for me to learn about the many careers related to zoology and biology; two subjects I wish to pursue in college.

In my free time, I enjoy reading, doing archery, and going for hikes when the weather is cooler at a local trail or preserve. I enjoy challenging myself in school by taking various AP courses, including statistics, psychology, and calculus.

In the future, I hope to travel more and share my passion for wildlife with others through education and research. I wish to teach people how they can make a difference in the world around them. Please enjoy the upcoming blogs describing my experiences as part of the InternQuest team. I know these next weeks will be forever memorable and cannot wait to begin!

Kylie
Profile, Fall 2015