Uncategorized

About Author: Kayla

Posts by Kayla

0

A trip through Africa and Asia

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!

Today we met with Torrey Pillsbury, Senior Mammal Keeper for the San Diego Safari Park, who let us hitch a ride in the back of her keeper’s truck to feed giraffes and rhinos!

Ms. Pillsbury’s journey to becoming a Senior Mammal Keeper for the Park is a unique one. In the late 70’s, she was offered an opportunity to fill in for a rider in the Park’s horse show. The organizer of the production was impressed with Ms. Pillsbury’s abilities at handling and riding the horses and offered her a job. She gladly accepted, and has been at the Safari Park ever since. During her years with the show, she was able to work with other large mammals, including elephants. Later, she transitioned from performing to working as a keeper.

Now as a Senior Mammal Keeper for the Africa and Asia field exhibits, Ms. Pillsbury gets up every day at 4:00a.m. It is Ms. Pillsbury’s job to distribute the special diets designed for each animal. Even though the keepers and nutritionists would like each animal to eat their assigned meal, it can be very difficult in a multi-species enclosure. The keepers try to regulate what each group of animals eat by supplying them with a “universal” food which is usually several types of hay.

While the keepers are out feeding the animals or picking up after them, they keep a watchful eye out for new babies that may have been born the previous evening. It is very common for the Park to have new babies born every day, especially during the spring. When Ms. Pillsbury or another keeper spot a newborn baby, it is their job to catch it, tag it, notch it, and record it. Markings in the ears of all the hoofstock help keepers keep track of each individual animal. (This is similar to humans having a Social Security number to identify them.) The process of tagging a new baby can be difficult at times because the mothers often times will hide their babies. Mothers can be very concerned and aggressive and may even attack the keepers if they think the baby is danger. This can be a challenging situation for any keeper working in such large field enclosures like at the Park. Ms. Pillsbury, after years of experience, is quite the expert at “processing” these new animals.

Torrey Pillsbury had a unique way of becoming a part of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. She suggests to anyone who is interested in becoming a zookeeper, gain as much hands-on experience as possible. Aspiring zookeepers should volunteer at the Zoo or another animal-related job. She also recommends looking into a program at Moorpark College, a two-year college in California which has a focus in animal training and management. While this career can be labor-intensive, Ms. Pillsbury finds the job very rewarding. She has had the rare opportunity of being involved in the hand-rearing of a baby gorilla and also rhino calf. She believe that people who are interested in zookeeping, must have a passion for animals and not mind waking up way before the sun rises!

Kayla, Careers Team
Week Six, Winter Session 2012

0

The Secret Language of 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!

This week at the Beckman Center we met with Dr. Matt Anderson, Associate Director of the Behavioral Biology Divison at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. He shared with us some fascinating information about his work in conservation research. Dr. Anderson is currently working with majestic African elephants in hopes of learning more about learn the ways in which they communicate.

Dr. Anderson told us about an amazing break- through in behavioral research of African elephants. With new innovations in technology, animal behaviorists like Dr. Anderson now have the ability to track and record elephants. Originally, researchers who wanted to study the behavior of elephants, had to physically be present in order to observe and take notes. New GPS collar technology is not only helping to track elephants, but also can record the communication that goes on inside the herd. Dr. Anderson uploads his recordings to a computer where he can visually see the frequencies of each elephant. What he has discovered is that elephants have a lot more to say than he previously thought. In each elephant rumble, there are frequencies that humans are able to hear, but there is also an entirely different frequency elephants use to communicate with each other that we can’t hear. Dr. Anderson’s goal is to be able to understand these different  frequency calls and be able to some how influence elephant behavior with large audio speakers in the wild.

Elephants and humans are facing a great dimlema in parts of Africa in that elephants are raiding crops of local farmers. A temporary solution is that elephants dislike the smell and taste of chilies and chili powder. So the locals will soak old rags in a liquid mixture of chili powder and hang the rags around the perimeter of the crop or they simply grow chilies. Another challenge for elephants is that there are some roads and fences that block them from effectively migrating between habitats, especially in case of areas where many elephants meet for breeding and feeding. With Dr. Anderson’s new data on elephant communication, he can use pre-recorded elephant calls to try and influence elephants into migrating into “invented corridors” away from human dangers. Also, for the safety of humans, idealistically they can use these speakers to allure elephants away from crops.

It was a great to learn about the breakthroughs in technology that have aided elephant researchers in understanding how they communicate and where they are travelling to within different areas of Africa. This made me think about how here at home we use microchipping with our pets and how we are able to locate them if they are lost. This same technology can be applied to cars. Interesting how now we can use this same concept with elephants out in the wild.

Kayla, Real World
Week Five, Winter Session 2012

0

The Birds and the Bees

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!

Today we visited the Reproductive Pathology Division at the Beckman Center where we met with Dr. Tom Jensen, one of the leading scientists with a very important avian project. He generously allowed us to invade his lab to get a taste of what his typical day is like. Also, we met with Kaitlyn Croyle, Research Technician, who provided us with hands-on experience in what a normal day for her is like as well. Although both Dr. Jensen and Ms. Croyle do very different jobs, they are both very important individuals that contribute to preserving and improving endangered avian populations.

Ms. Croyle received her major in animal science at the University of Maryland. She always knew she wanted to work with animals and thought that she originally wanted to be a vet. However, when she did an experimental embryo project her senior of college, did she decided to further her career in specializing with bird embryos. We observed firsthand the tasks involved in Ms. Croyle’s job. In simple terms, Ms. Croyle receives the eggs that don’t hatch from the Park and the Zoo and determines why the egg was not successful in developing into a chick. During her time with us, she examined three malkoha eggs and showed us how to look for developmental landmarks to indicate whether the egg was indeed fertile or not. She showed us a diagram displaying the differences between the two. A fertile egg has what is called a blastoderm, which is a layer of cells that develop on the surface of the yolk, it rises up and creates a lump and this is where the embryo develops. Infertile eggs will not have these landmarks indicating development. I asked her what are some common reasons why eggs don’t develop properly. She said that sometimes the yolk gets bacteria in it and rots.

After the stimulation with Ms. Croyle we met with Dr. Jensen’s, a Scientist that has been with the Zoo for twelve years! He plays a major role in saving species of birds. Dr. Jensen knew he had always wanted to work with birds. It wasn’t until he was getting his PhD in Physiology at Notre Dame, that he discovered he had an interest in working with bird embryos. One method that he is currently working on is taking stem cells from one bird species, (a kiwi, for example) and injecting it into a chicken egg. If the chicken egg develops into a rooster, it will not only produce its own sperm, but also the sperm of the kiwi. In other words the rooster acts like a storage unit for scientists who want to save the male kiwi’s sperm because it has the potential of becoming an offspring. When the scientists get the opportunity to use the sperm, they will artificially inseminate a female kiwi in hopes for the results of a kiwi chick.

Even though this sounds like an exciting job, this is just a part of the work that Dr. Jensen does! Dr. Jensen has also has done fieldwork in New Zealand to study a New Zealand icon, the kiwi bird. On one of his trips he spent two weeks on a remote island with a team of avian experts, hiking through the steep and slippery hills to reach where the kiwi reside. There, they track kiwi to see who is burrowing with whom. Also, they keep track of where the nest are so that in the night when the kiwis are ungracefully crashing around the forest floor looking for food, Dr. Jensen and his team can measure the eggs to see when they can be expecting new baby kiwis. Another project they are working on is researching how the massive amount of ticks that are on the kiwis and inside their burrows effect the birds. If they conclude that the ticks are an issue they are going to devise a solution to get rid of them.

In the end, we all left the Reproductive Pathology Division with a new perspective on what goes into the process of reproducing animals. Researchers and scientists work hard to find ways to improve the reproduction levels of animals and this is crucial especially for the species that are endangered in the world. 

Kayla, Careers Team
Week Four, Winter Session 2012

0

The Place You Live and Why it is Special

Zoo InterQuest 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 Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs, and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

Today we met with Colleen Wisinski, Research Associate in the Applied Animal Ecology Division at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. We went on an adventurous ride through the 900-acre biodiversity preserve adjacent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on a search for a fascinating local bird species, the costal cactus wren.

The coastal wren is a subspecies native only to this part of the world and we are lucky to have these cute tiny creatures living right in our backyard! Cactus wrens love to build football-shaped nests inside prickly pear cactus stands where they stay all year round, unlike most other bird species. This charismatic bird  is considered a species of special concern, and it is our responsibility as San Diegans to help conserve it. Researches at the Institute, like Ms. Wisinski, are working to do just that.

Ms. Wisinski and her team of experts are working hard on a habitat restoration project focused on the prickly pear cactus to make it grow faster and taller. During the 2007 wildfires, many of the cactus wrens living on the Safari Park’s biodiversity preserve perished in the flames, along with much of their critical habitat. Institute researchers are working vigorously to try and find the best possible way to grow prickly pear cactus quickly and effectively so that the remaining resident cactus wrens can rebuild their nests. Prickly pear cactus stands can take up to seven years to be tall enough for these birds to be able to build their nest in them (approximately three feet tall). Ms. Wisinski described three different methods that she and her colleagues are experimenting with in order to restore this unique habitat. One of the methods used is to cut a healthy pad from of a matured cactus and plant it inside a pot with soil and then monitor it in a controlled environment for six months. Then it is transplanted into the ground. Ms. Wisinski joked that she and her team call the pads that under go this particular method “the princesses” because of the way they are pampered and how each pad is tagged with a pink ribbon when planted.

But Ms. Wisinski and her team don’t just plant and monitor cacti everyday. Every year they go out on a point count survey, once during the breeding season and once during the off season. They break into teams and disperse to different locations across the restoration area. Each team looks for nests and records the nest location on a map. This helps the team keep track of how many cactus wrens live on the preserve and to evaluate their use of the habitat. Sometimes the team will catch the birds and color code them by putting a small colored band on their ankle to see how far they fly away from their nest.

The biggest threat to both prickly pear cacti and cactus wrens is habitat loss, but predators such as cats, deer, and wood rats also pose a threat. Wood rats and cats are a huge problem for cactus wrens because they can climb inside cactus wren nests and eat their babies. Also, in the San Pasqual Valley where the preserve is located, the climate gets so hot and dry that a lot of plants can’t survive. Prickly pear cactus is a thick, hardy and drought tolerant plant that easily survives the heat. To a lot of hungry and thirsty animals, the cactus looks like a tasty treat during the hotter times of the year, despite it’s many thorns.

If you and your family and friends want to help conserve these little birds the best thing you can do is keep your cats inside so that they can’t cause trouble for local birds like the cactus wren. Also, knowledge is power, so you can also help spread information about local bird species that need our help.

By the end of our adventurous hunt we had not seen any cactus wrens. However, we did get to hear them sing, echoing through the hills to create an amazing experience. As the sun set on the horizon, the rolling hills of prickly pear cactus glowed peacefully. The scene was beautiful, quiet, and tranquil. I know if I were a cactus wren, I would be content to nest along these hillsides.

Kayla, Conservation Team
Week Three, Winter Session 2012


1

Elephant Odyssey through Horticulturist Eyes

Golden barrel cactus

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!

Today at the San Diego Zoo we met with horticulture expert Mike Letzring, who took us on a tour through Elephant Odyssey. Mr. Letzring, who is the collections manager, pointed out the diverse collection of plant life found in Elephant Odyssey. He shared his perspective on plants, which goes much deeper than looking at a plant’s surface. He sees a rare and unique live organism that has a super capability to survive with little to no water!

Mr. Letzring shared with us how he and his team of landscapers are not only in charge of the plants outside of the exhibits but also for the plants that go inside. In this rattlesnake exhibit at Elephant Odyssey, the Horticulture Department chose plants that are native to San Diego because they are relatively drought tolerant like the plants rattlesnakes are used to being around in their natural home, the desert.

In Elephant Odyssey, we stopped at a very interesting tree. This tree is sometimes referred to as an “upside-down tree” because its branches look like a root system. Mr. Letzring, explained to us that this tree is very rare and indigenous to Madagascar. Make sure the next time you are in Elephant Odyssey, you take a moment to look at this amazing tree!

This brilliant orange and yellow flower is indigenous to San Diego. Mr. Letzring tells us that this unique-looking flower is called “the monkey flower” because its petals resemble the shape of a monkey’s face. Can you see it?

Along this particular walkway in Elephant Odyssey, do you notice a theme among the plants? When designing this area, Mr. Letzring and his team wanted to go with a theme that included plants with spines (thorns). The plants were received from a generous donor, a local San Diegan!

One of the plants we stop to look at was the African Erythrina latissima. This plant’s biggest threat is the gall wasp. Mr. Letzring showed us how the gall wasp penetrates the plant, which ultimately destroys it.

One of the last plants we came across on our tour was the golden barrel cactus. To our surprise, it’s actually possible to pull out the flower of the cactus to reveal a good source of moisture inside it. We learned that this cactus is very valuable to animals that come across it in the hot desert.

 

At the end of the tour, the interns had the rare opportunity to sample these delicious exotic fruits! What a treat to sample dragonfruit! It is clear that Mr. Letzring and his team work hard to spice up the Zoo with a variety of plants to not only diversify the landscape but for us to learn about the amazing world of horticulture.

 

Kayla, Photo Team
Week Two, Winter Session 2012

0

Exploring Path Lab, Surgery, Recovery

In the conference room, Ms. Laura Keener, Clinical Pathology Laboratory manager for San Diego Zoo Global, gave us a presentation on background knowledge of what she and people in her profession do.

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!

This week we visited the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center adjacent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. We explored the Clinical Pathology Laboratory to learn how animal fluids are analyzed to determine an animal’s overall health and also toured the animal surgery and recovery rooms and got to see how the veterinarians prepare for surgery.

Inside the Clinical Pathology Laboratory, a large room is filled with counters and high-tech machines ready to generate important test results. We saw all different kinds of machines that did such specific jobs that are all equally important. This lab is responsible for keeping track of each and every individual animal’s health at the Park.

 

Ms. Keener showed us an adjacent room off the lab and immediately the temperature decreased. This small room contains freezers filled with plasma samples from animals living at the Park.

 

Leslie Nielsen, laboratory technician, walked us through the step-by-step process of separating blood and plasma using a centrifuge machine in the blood analysis area of the lab.

 

Ms. Nielsen gave us the opportunity to look under the microscope at fecal samples from a greater kudu. Caroline jumped at the opportunity to examine the slide more closely to look for abnormalities in the sample. Ms. Nielsen gave us a cheat sheet with different types of cells to look for while we analyzed the sample.

 

Jeanette Fuller, hospital manager for the Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center, toured us through the other regions of the hospital. We walked through the large-animal surgery room and got an appreciation for just how much prep work goes into a day of animal surgeries.

 

We visited the holding stalls for animals in quarantine and under special observation. As we walked down the hall, we paused at each stall as Ms. Fuller told us a little bit about each patient’s story.

 

Kayla, Photo Team
Week Two, Winter Session 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

Zoo Educators Save Animals, One Person at a Time

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 our first week of Zoo InternQuest, all of us were excited by the unknown. We sat in a secluded area of the Zoo and waited for Zoo Educator Kim Carroll. When Ms. Carroll came out to greet us, she wasn’t alone.

Along with her was Kizzy, a beautiful African gray parrot. She told us a bit of information about Kizzy and how her species is one of the most intelligent birds in the world. Unfortunately, like other parrots, African grays are threatened due to habitat loss and the pet trade.

Before Kizzy came to the Zoo, she was kept as a pet. Birds can be very difficult to take care of. They are very vocal animals because in the wild that is their way of communicating with each other. When they become pets, they don’t lose that communication skill and, in turn, they can be very loud in an enclosed area such as a home. Also, birds can be very messy eaters, because they have to crack open seeds in order to eat. This may seem like a hassle for a pet owner, but in the wild, birds do this, and it helps spread seeds that can grow into trees and other plants. Another thing to consider if you or someone you know is thinking about getting a pet bird like Kizzy: a lot of birds can live to be 50 years old or more! So, if you get a bird at the age of 10, it can be your responsibility until you are about 60 years old. That’s a long time and a huge commitment to a pet.

Kizzy is now living at the Zoo and playing an important role as an animal ambassador. This means that Zoo educators like Ms. Carroll take her to schools, hospitals, and senior-care facilities to educate people about wildlife and conservation. “Growing Up Green,” for example, is a program for children ages three to seven that introduces the concept of recycling. The Zoo leaves children with key messages, including the importance of conservation, awareness of endangered species, and how each person can do little things to help save wildlife.

After the private session with the animal ambassadors, Ms. Carroll took us on an “Inside Look” tour to update us on all the renovations at the San Diego Zoo. This tour is a perfect opportunity for guests to get up close and personal with some of the animals. It’s also a perfect opportunity for the Zoo to show off its conservation side. For example, on one of the last stops of the tour we came to the Bactrian camel enclosure. Ms. Carroll pointed out how part of the enclosure was made from compressed recycled plastic that had been conformed into wooden-like fencing. Keepers have discovered their own way to walk the talk. When the Bactrian camels’ thick winter coat sheds, it’s perfect for bird nesting material as well as enrichment; the smell helps trigger the hunting instincts of big cats. In the Bactrian camel enclosure we met Mongo, a massive male, who was very generous with his saliva while he was eating his celery treat.

We ended our tour at the giraffe enclosure where we got the opportunity to feed Silver, a male giraffe who towered over us with his long legs and neck. Silver’s long blackish-blue tongue wrapped around the acacia leaves and snatched the leaves from our hands. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Kayla, Real World
Week One, Winter Session 2012

0

Bloggin’ It

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!

Hello! My name is Kayla and I’m currently a junior in high school. I am your typical teenager who is desperately trying to balance the hectic lifestyle of an aspiring young adult. I have played three years of varsity tennis and a year of water polo. Between school work and sports I try to spend as much time with my friends and family as I can. When I have spare time, I enjoy camping in the desert and going horseback riding.

After high school, I plan to go to college and major in zoology. I want to have a career in zoology with an emphasis on animal behavior. I’m hoping this major will allow me to explore all opportunities in wildlife research and allow me to get my dream job, which is to work at the wonderful San Diego Zoo.

When I first discovered this internship, I immediately knew that it was something I wanted to be a part of. I was accepted along with a couple of other lucky and intelligent peers. Over the course of the next seven weeks, we will have an inside look at many careers available at the Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute of Conservation Research. I want to thank all who have made this experience possible. I hope for those who follow my blog for the next seven weeks that you will enjoy the fascinating and thrilling adventure of my walk on the wild side. Enjoy!

Kayla
Winter Session 2012