Zoo InternQuest

Zoo InternQuest

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ANIMAL CARETAKER 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 on the Zoo’s Website!

ivanna wildlifeEver since I was little, animals fascinated me. Whether it was taking care of dogs, turtles, fish, or cats by feeding them or simply playing with them, I enjoyed all the time spent with them. What really drove me to want a career in vet sciences was my own experience with my dog. Outside of loving animals, I enjoy school, especially biology, as well as ballet and track.

I am a social, and determined person. I always try to give 100% in everything that I do, and find the best in things. I enjoy talking to people, and really just being social. I also like to be positive and find the best qualities of things or situations; I guess you could say I am an optimistic person.

The event that made me want to aspire to become a vet was an incident with my dog “Snicker.” He was hit by a car and lost his leg. I was taking care of all his needs, like addressing his wounds and giving him his medications. I got the idea of wanting to take care of other animals the same way I took care of my own dog. This led me to become an assistant in the veterinary hospital my dog was treated at. Learning the proper care of different animals was a memorable experience that I wanted to learn even more. I was told by my AP biology teacher of the Zoo InternQuest program, which gave students the opportunity to explore jobs in different animal and wildlife fields, such as zoo keeping, conservation. I found this to be the perfect opportunity for me, and I quickly applied.

Outside of the program, I enjoy dancing ballet as well as long distance running. Since I was 6 years old, I have been dancing jazz, contemporary dancing, and of course ballet, eventually I chose to only practice ballet. To be successful, ballet requires discipline as well as mental strength. I try to give 100% in everything I do, and always have a positive outlook. Long distance running is a hobby that I recently picked up, I began to run my sophomore year and it is something that I enjoy doing in my spare time to refresh my mind. I also like to bake. I have been baking with my grandmother since I was a little girl. I love all kinds of sweets, and of course chocolate, which is why I love baking.

I am very excited for this program, I find it to be exactly what I am looking for, which is to explore different fields in the biology world. Maybe I will even find a profession I like besides being a vet. I am looking forward to the other skills I am going to learn that will help me in my future. I know it’s going to be a motivating experience.

Ivanna
Fall Session 2014

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READY TO LEARN!

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!

Alon Profile pictureHello world! My name is Alon and I am a senior in high school. My curiosity for animals started at a very young age when my dad and I would watch David Attenborough’s BBC specials together. I would stare wide-eyed at the screen learning all I could about the interesting creatures before me. My favorite episodes were the ones centered on the plains, and the big animals that inhabit them. David Attenborough has definitely inspired me to see the beauty in animals, like my favorite, the wolf. Since watching his movies, my curiosity for animals has only grown. Having a dog has also helped enhance my passion. I have a seven year old boxer named Mona, and I am proud to call her one of my best friends. Having her around has helped me realize I find animal behavior extremely fascinating.

Some of my hobbies include snorkeling, hiking, skim boarding, playing music, and camping. The ocean is what I love the most though. Whether I am swimming or diving, I just love being out in the water, seeing the fish, and being in the waves. I especially like going to La Jolla because of the seals and the Garibaldi fish that are visible on most days. I also like being outside, exploring, and being active, and if the activity includes seeing animals, then it makes me even happier. One of my favorite hikes is one right by my house in Carmel Valley that ends at a waterfall. On the way to the waterfall there is a lake that is filled with ducks. It is quite a sight. It is a wonderful hike and I never get tired of it.

I have always known that I wanted to work with animals, and I am ecstatic that I can say I am an intern at the San Diego Zoo for the InternQuest program. I had been looking for a program that would really help me develop my passion for animal behavior and behavioral ecology. As soon as I found the Zoo InternQuest application, I pounced on the opportunity to apply. I am thrilled I have the chance to learn about different careers within San Diego Zoo Global, and I am even more excited that I can share my experiences with all of you.

Alon
Fall Session 2014

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A Ukulele Playing, Creative Cooking Conservationist

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!

Rose DoHi! My name is Rose, and I’m currently a high school senior.

Although I’m short in stature, I definitely do not fall short in my enthusiasm for animals and the environment. I’ve spent all of my life here in San Diego frequenting the Zoo, going to the beach, and going camping. Watching my older brothers’ adventures as they worked towards their degrees in biology and environmental systems which have really influenced my interests and career goals. I was able to follow one of them along through his journey as he lived in the Amazon rainforest and studied monkeys in northern Vietnam through his blog. My other brother let me tag along with him to La Jolla beach to examine shells during his internship with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

As a result of their influence, I took conservation science throughout middle school. The class really broadened my perspective about what conservation really encompasses – whether it is specific animals, environments, groundwater, and so on. One of the things I was able to do with that class in conjunction with the science fair was to study the best way to grow cacti for the endangered San Diego cactus wrens. If you wanted to, the best way is to plant a cactus pad horizontally on its side rather than vertically where the cutting is since it can develop more roots this way. I’m currently taking AP environmental science to further explore problems like population grown, waste management, and other things that are becoming increasingly important. It’s really exciting to me even though the issues can be devastating because it always feels like there’s some hope to do something and fix the problems.

When I’m not worrying about the environment or school, I like to play guitar or ukulele. I tend to write a lot of silly songs as an outlet for stress even if they’re no good. In addition to songwriting, I love to cook and bake. I took Culinary Arts and Management last year, which really helped me develop myself as a person. I learned how to communicate effectively, complete tasks efficiently, and above all else, cook!

With all that I’ve experienced so far, I think I’m headed towards a career in the conservation science field conducting research in whatever I find myself involved in. However, I know there are so many other options I have yet to explore. I could specialize in the study of certain endangered animals, focus on specific environments, or even become and educator. The possibilities seem endless! I am so ecstatic about having the opportunity to take part in the Zoo InternQuest program. This is giving me a chance to not only expand my horizons, but also learn about what I could be doing for the rest of my life.

These next seven weeks are going to be fantastic!

Rose
Fall Session 2014

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MY PASSION IS WITH NATURE

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!

wesleyAlthough most immediate family members and peers resort to calling me by my legal name, Wesley, other acceptable titles include “the vegetarian,” “the drummer,” “the strongly opinionated one,” and occasionally, “the spaced-out day-dreamer.” These titles shamelessly suit me perfectly, but one title that I can identify with more-so than any other is “the passionate one.” Whether it’s academics, music, or the outdoors, I believe my capacity for passion far exceeds your average high school student.

Since my first visit to the San Diego Zoo at the age of six, the core of my collective passion while growing up has been centered on all things regarding the environment. In my earliest years of environmental interest, nature fascinated me beyond belief. During this time, rather than being cooped up indoors on the Internet or huddled in front of a television screen playing video games, I preferred stumbling in the marshy waters of the San Diego River or marching through the brush of Mission Trails. I felt genuinely happy and connected to the world when outdoors on my hikes. When I was inside, I felt like I lacked enthusiasm and creativity. These backcountry adventures have directly influenced the person I have become today by cultivating a deep love for the Earth. However, my passion for nature has grown to become more than just an appreciation for the outdoors. I have now become more conscious and aware of the issues facing our planet through hours of devoted research, and volunteer work at the Helen Woodward Animal Center. My interest in the environment grows daily as I learn more and more about the natural world. Over time, a clear conclusion has risen that my passion lies solely in protecting and stewarding the Earth.

Whether the issue is pollution, habitat and biodiversity loss, there is no question that each problem must be solved as soon as humanly possible. Conservation and the reversal of all negative impacts inflicted by humanity are key to our planet’s future. The Earth is in a dire state and the only ones who can implement change are those who are willing to take action. I am one of those people.

Through the InternQuest program, I hope to hone the skills I already have and develop new ones; all for the purpose of becoming more knowledgeable and environmentally aware. Despite my current conservation-based career path, I also hope to examine and discover new career paths, so that I can find the perfect one for me. I have been looking forward to an opportunity like this one for a very long time and I can’t wait to get started!

Wesley
Fall Session 2014

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A MIND LOOKING TO STUDY MINDS

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!

Olivia Downs photoI haven’t always loved science in a traditional way. Experimenting with bugs was not accompanied by a data collection sheet and lab report when I was a kid. By the time I was in third grade, however, growing beans in science class, I knew science was something that really interested me. Checking how much each sprout grew every afternoon was not only exciting (despite the protests by my fellow classmates to the contrary—but they thought dirt and worms were disgusting!), but it became what I looked forward to most from school. Since then I’ve explored biology, zoology, chemistry, physics, engineering, psychology, microbiology, and neuroscience, mostly through school, but also through extracurricular programs and independent study.

Though I’ve had such a diverse education science-wise, biology has always been my clear favorite. Squishy things are just inherently fascinating to me. Recently, zoology has also become a strong interest of mine. Working with animals has always been a dream of mine, but realizing I could be able to work with elusive, endangered, or otherwise extraordinary animals launched my love of zoology. One of my goals is to have a tank of octopuses, because octopuses (yes, the grammatically correct term is octopuses, although octopi and octopodes are also accepted) are the most fascinating, intelligent, and entertaining animals. For now, though, my cat suits me just fine.

My involvement with the Zoo spans about seven years, starting in middle school. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to go behind-the-scenes and interact with some of the most interesting and inspiring animals and professionals in the world—keepers, researchers, animal ambassadors, educators, animals both on exhibit and off. Some of my favorite experiences were seeing tiger cubs and getting roared at by their mother, watching eggs tumble as their inhabitants tried to hatch in an incubator behind the scenes, and spending the night at the Safari Park. InternQuest is an even more exciting opportunity for me, and as someone looking to go into the biological sciences in college (and beyond!), I know it will be an incredible and educational experience.

Outside of studying science, I enjoy creating art in felt and bookbinding. Although it’s my hobby and not my future career, I still manage to fit a bit of biology into my work! I am excited to start blogging for this program, and I hope it might become one of my new hobbies. We’ll see!

Olivia
Fall Session 2014

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FROM THE RANCH TO THE ZOO

Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique ability 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!

belleHi everyone! My name is Isabelle, but everyone calls me Belle. I am an enthusiastic senior high school student who can’t wait to join San Diego Zoo’s InternQuest program!

Animals have been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. In fact, my childhood dreams included training reindeer to pull Santa’s sleigh and hosting the show Zaboomafoo with the Kratt Brothers. As I grew up, so did my love for animals and learning about them. Right after I turned ten years old, my family left the city of Chicago to big San Diego and I still remember the very first time I came to San Diego Zoo. I held my Icee in my new lion cup in front of the meerkats and realized I want to be with these fascinating creatures for the rest of my life.

While my experience with wild animals has been limited to observing them on countless trips to the Zoo, I have been lucky enough to be able to work hands on with domesticated animals and, in particular, livestock. There’s always that one person we know in our class who is absolutely horse crazy. Well, that person is me. I began riding horses and have been learning more about them for the past seven years. I eventually wanted to go beyond just horses and began to learn about all the livestock animals I could. My favorites by far are cattle and goats. Now that I’m older, I can take my love of animals even further. I am so excited to learn from wild animal handlers and discuss their passions that are now their careers. While animals are my passion, my other interests include acting, cooking, and waiting in line at every Marvel movie premiere. I also love to paint and spend time outside whether it is swimming, hiking, or camping.

Eventually, I aim to obtain a degree in animal science, specifically in animal nutrition. InternQuest offers me an opportunity to learn about careers I’m not as familiar with. By having the chance to meet with Zoo professionals and blogging about their careers, I am taking my very first steps into the professional animal world. My goal for this program is to continue learning about animals but to also learn about the conservation of these species. The transition from being a ranch girl with a biology class under her belt to an intern at San Diego is a challenge that I am more than enthusiastic about. I cannot wait to meet with professionals who have achieved the goal of combining their passion with their career and truly making a difference.

This ranch girl is ready to expand her horizons. I am so excited to be part of the San Diego Zoo InternQuest program and I hope you join me on my new adventure by enjoying my blog!

Belle
Fall Session 2014

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Adventure is Out There

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!

markI am so excited to take part in the San Diego Zoo’s InternQuest program to learn about different careers working with and/or for animals. Since I was knee-high, I have always been fascinated by the outside world, and could spend hours in my backyard watching lizards and birds go about their lives. Of course my backyard was never enough, and I was always itching to go hiking, camping, or wildlife exploring in the greenbelt behind my house. My passion for the outdoors has grown throughout my life, and I now spend my summers backpacking and kayaking in some of America’s wildest places. In the summer of my junior year I spent 28 days kayaking off of Petersburg, Alaska, in a region with more bald eagles, sea otters, humpback whales and black bears than anywhere else on earth. I love traveling to strange and unique places. I have seen many pristine habitats (mostly) untouched by mankind so I take conservation very seriously. To have the opportunity to learn what I can do at home to help the environment would be a great privilege.

When I’m not in school or backpacking through some mountain pass, I spend my time hanging out with friends, sketching, or painting. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember, and my artistic focus has always leaned towards animals and nature. I prefer to draw from life, without using photographs or other references, so I keep a sketchbook on me in case inspiration strikes. Drawing isn’t my only hobby, I love to play sports, work out at the gym, chill out and watch movies with friends, and try exotic foods. Whether it’s Ethiopian, Thai, South African, or Ecuadorian, I’ve probably tried it and it’s probably delicious. I am the varsity captain of my school’s wrestling team, and have been grappling my way to the top since freshman year. Wrestling is a brutal but rewarding sport, and through my struggles I have built a strong relationship with my team and my coaches, who have all helped me become a better teammate and leader.

I am a senior, and college is right around the corner. I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I want to study. I have a pretty good idea what I want to do in life, but I’m still not sure which career will get me to where I want to be. I know that I want to go into zoology with a focus on herpetology (study of reptiles), but finding a way to reach that goal is harder than it seems. I’m hoping that having the opportunity to speak with experts working for San Diego Zoo Global will help me better understand what career paths best suit my interests and abilities.

Over these next seven weeks, I am hoping to learn as much as I can about the careers available in animal science, and share as much as I can in my blog. This opportunity is truly one in a million, and I can’t wait to get started.

Mark
Fall Session 2014

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The Animal Whisperer

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!

isabellaHello, my name is Isabella!

Even at four years old,I had a connection with animals and aspired to be a veterinarian. This connection intensified with my best friend and dog, Ginger. She was rightfully named from the color of her fur, and was not agreeable with most people. Fortunately, this was not the case with me. I ran straight up to her and I felt as if we understood each other on an emotional level. Nicknamed the Animal Whisperer, I knew I had to work with animals and the environment.

Growing up in Kansas City, I traveled to the Kansas City Zoo quite often with my family. Even though I was only five, the animals immediately captured my attention and affection. I remember holding my Dad’s hand as he pointed out the different animals as he explained where they lived and how they could survive in their different environments. I can still see the giraffes as they towered over me, eyes filled with content and love for their families and keepers.

When I moved to San Diego, I was extremely excited to see a Zoo of such magnitude. My first trip entailed about a thousand pictures, and oohing and aweing at every single detail. One of my favorite memories is of my Mom and I eating at Albert’s Café. We were laughing thinking about how we got lost on our way to the elephant enclosure and at the same time talking about when we could come back.

After discovering my passion for giraffes when I was able to feed them at them at the Safari Park with my Dad, I realized that a career with domesticated animals was not for me. I loved the way African animals were able to roam the wild, free to move about as they pleased with their families. As a senior, I found myself changing my plans for college; I wanted a more environmental emphasis to assist the natural world with preserving the environment and eliminating pollution. These next seven weeks hold promise of opening up my eyes and expanding my horizons to different worlds of how I can help the planet.

I enjoy many activities, including sports and anything outdoors. I have played basketball competitively since fourth grade, and have been involved in varsity basketball and shot-put for three years of high school. My first real experience of being outdoors is when I went camping and canoeing with my family. The tent was flooded, the sleeping bags soaking wet, and everyone huddled together as darkness set in. Even though none of us could sleep, we pursued our plans to go canoeing the next morning. My dad, sister and I were in one canoe, my brother, oldest sister, and Mom in the other. As we paddled and paddled, arms weak, water splashing in our faces, our canoe never tipped and we beat my Mom!

My academics have always been rigorous with AP and honors classes. I love to challenge myself with the demanding coursework. However, when I have time off or need a short break, I like to the read the Michael Bennett series by James Patterson and Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell.

I’m looking forward to the next seven weeks and learning from the experts at San Diego Zoo Global. I hope my experiences and my blogs inspire you to go to the Zoo, explore, and learn about the environment.

Isabella
Fall Session 2014

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Everything Ends in Necropsy

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!

What happens to Zoo animals when they pass away? How can we determine if an animal died of natural causes or had a contagious disease? Well, have no fear because the anatomic pathologists at the San Diego Zoo are prepared to investigate!

InternQuest travelled to the Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine at the San Diego Zoo. The Jennings Center has 5 different departments, all important to maintaining the health and wellbeing of collection animals, and we met two anatomic pathologists. Pathology is a special branch of veterinary medicine that focuses on diseases. Pathologists look at tissue samples from animals to determine what sorts of things may have infected the animal and determine if they are a threat to other animals in the collection.

InternQuest travelled to the Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine at the San Diego Zoo. The Jennings Center has 5 different departments, all important to maintaining the health and wellbeing of collection animals, and we met two anatomic pathologists. Pathology is a special branch of veterinary medicine that focuses on diseases. Pathologists look at tissue samples from animals to determine what sorts of things may have infected the animal and determine if they are a threat to other animals in the collection.

We met Dr. Jennifer Bernard (left), an Anatomic Pathology Fellow, and Dr. Sabrina McGraw (right), an Anatomic Pathology Resident. Dr. Bernard recently took a test, similar to the test she took to become a veterinarian, and is officially a pathologist! Dr. McGraw only has one more year to go before she, too, can take the test.

We met Dr. Jennifer Bernard (left), an Anatomic Pathology Fellow, and Dr. Sabrina McGraw (right), an Anatomic Pathology Resident. Dr. Bernard recently took a test, similar to the test she took to become a veterinarian, and is officially a pathologist! Dr. McGraw only has one more year to go before she, too, can take the test.

Dr. Bernard explained that pathology has two sides: clinical and anatomic. She explained that clinical pathologists, like her, are focused more on living animals and work to treat diseases before they can progress. Anatomic pathologists work with animals that have already died, trying to determine what killed the animal and how it might affect other animals in the collection.

Dr. Bernard explained that pathology has two sides: clinical and anatomic. She explained that clinical pathologists, like her, are focused more on living animals and work to treat diseases before they can progress. Anatomic pathologists work with animals that have already died, trying to determine what killed the animal and how it might affect other animals in the collection.

Dr. McGraw presented us with a case to test our pathology skills. The case of the “Coughing Condor” involved a bird that was being treated successfully for lead poisoning but still died, puzzling its keepers. She put a slide containing a sample of the condor’s tissue under the microscope for us to look at. It turns out, the lead poisoning had weakened the immune system of the bird, making it susceptible to infection.

Dr. McGraw presented us with a case to test our pathology skills. The case of the “Coughing Condor” involved a bird that was being treated successfully for lead poisoning but still died, puzzling its keepers. She put a slide containing a sample of the condor’s tissue under the microscope for us to look at. It turns out, the lead poisoning had weakened the immune system of the bird, making it susceptible to infection.

Each slide contains a tissue sample from a different animal. The samples are stained with different dyes to make certain features, such as parasites or fungi, stand out against the animal’s tissues. Once stained, the pathologists can more easily examine the tissue and determine what might have killed an animal.

Each slide contains a tissue sample from a different animal. The samples are stained with different dyes to make certain features, such as parasites or fungi, stand out against the animal’s tissues. Once stained, the pathologists can more easily examine the tissue and determine what might have killed an animal.

Dr. McGraw showed us a tissue sample from the “Coughing Condor” case. The teal is the tissue of the condor’s air sac and the pink is a mold called aspergillum. The mold infects a bird when their immune system is weak. This condor already had lead poisoning, so the aspergillum was able to infect the bird, leading to its death.

Dr. McGraw showed us a tissue sample from the “Coughing Condor” case. The teal is the tissue of the condor’s air sac and the pink is a mold called aspergillum. The mold infects a bird when their immune system is weak. This condor already had lead poisoning, so the aspergillum was able to infect the bird, leading to its death.

The skeleton of a small hoof stock was on display, but there was something distinctly different about it. This animal had an extra leg growing out of its pelvis! Dr. Bernard pointed out the different parts of the extra leg and explained that the leg would never have functioned because the muscles wouldn’t have attached to it properly.

The skeleton of a small hoof stock was on display, but there was something distinctly different about it. This animal had an extra leg growing out of its pelvis! Dr. McGraw pointed out the different parts of the extra leg and explained that the leg would never have functioned because the muscles wouldn’t have attached to it properly.

We got a special look inside the necropsy lab. Here, animals are dissected in order to determine cause of death in a way somewhat similar to a human autopsy on CSI. The lab is kept very sterile, as technicians have no way of knowing what sort of diseases an animal might be carrying. Dr. McGraw explained that the lab is cleaner and safer than a human hospital. Necropsies at the Zoo are important for ensuring the health of all animals in the collection.

We got a special look inside the necropsy lab. Here, animals are dissected in order to determine cause of death in a way somewhat similar to a human autopsy on CSI. The lab is kept very sterile, as technicians have no way of knowing what sort of diseases an animal might be carrying. Necropsies at the Zoo are important for ensuring the health of all animals in the collection.

When larger animals are brought in from the Zoo or Safari Park, a special lift allows for easy transport. The lift can support large animals, up to the size of a rhino! The lift extends all the way to the back of the necropsy lab so that the technicians can place the animal wherever they will be conducting the necropsy.

When larger animals are brought in from the Zoo or Safari Park, a special lift allows for easy transport. The lift can support large animals, up to the size of a rhino! The lift extends all the way to the back of the necropsy lab so that the technicians can place the animal wherever they will be conducting the necropsy.

Before leaving the lab it is important to sanitize any part of your body that came into contact with any part of the lab. Due to the strict protocols of the lab, we were instructed not to lean on any tables or touch anything in the lab. Even though the floors had been washed and disinfected for our visit, we also had to rinse the bottoms of our shoes in a footbath to ensure we didn’t leave with any contaminants on our feet.

Before leaving the lab it is important to sanitize any part of your body that came into contact with any part of the lab. Due to the strict protocols of the lab, we were instructed not to lean on any tables or touch anything in the lab. Even though the floors had been washed and disinfected for our visit, we also had to rinse the bottoms of our shoes in a footbath to ensure we didn’t leave with any contaminants on our feet.

A few doors down from the necropsy lab is the histology lab. Here, tissue samples from animals are made into slides that can later be studied and tested. The process is a bit complex, but the technicians and pathologists have it down to a science.

A few doors down from the necropsy lab is the histology lab. Here, tissue samples from animals are made into slides that can later be studied and tested. The process is a bit complex, but the technicians and pathologists have it down to a science.

While she showed us the histology lab, Dr. McGraw passed around the skull of a rodent from southern South America known as the plains viscacha. This particular plains viscacha suffered from an infection of the bone marrow known as osteomyelitis. Preservation of tissues and bones allows pathologists to study the different diseases that affected an animal long after it has died. This helps the pathologists learn more about the disease and how to detect it in other animals in the collection.

While she showed us the histology lab, Dr. McGraw passed around the skull of a rodent from southern South America known as the plains viscacha. This particular plains viscacha suffered from an infection of the bone marrow known as osteomyelitis. Preservation of tissues and bones allows pathologists to study the different diseases that affected an animal long after it has died. This helps the pathologists learn more about the disease and how to detect it in other animals in the collection.

The histology processing center is essential to turning a tissue sample into a slide. A tissue sample is put in the processing center to extract all the water from it. Once the water is extracted, it is coated with wax. The wax not only makes the sample stronger and easier to handle but also preserves the tissue. Pathologists make slides so that they can take a closer look at what affected an animal and help protect other animals in the collection.

The histology processing center is essential to turning a tissue sample into a slide. A tissue sample is put in the processing center to extract all the water from it. Once the water is extracted, it is coated with wax. The wax not only makes the sample stronger and easier to handle but also preserves the tissue. Pathologists make slides so that they can take a closer look at what affected an animal and help protect other animals in the collection.

Once a sample has swapped its water for wax it goes to the microtone. Here, the tissue is precision cut and placed on a slide. The microtone can cut a slice as thin as a few cells thick! The thinner the slice the better, as it then becomes easier to look at individual cells and determine what may have been wrong with the animal.

Once a sample has swapped its water for wax it goes to the microtone. Here, the tissue is precision cut and placed on a slide. The microtone can cut a slice as thin as a few cells thick! The thinner the slice the better, as it then becomes easier to look at individual cells and determine what may have been wrong with the animal.

The final step to making a slide is adding stains to it. Each stain is formulated to color a different tissue, fungi, virus, or other components that can infect animal cells. The staining process is automatic and there is a robotic arm that will add stains to the slides. Once the sample has been stained, pathologists have an easier time determining the cause of death for an animal. This is an important part of zoo veterinary medicine because pathologists can more confidently determine what affected and killed an animal, potentially saving other animals in the collection.

Libby, Photography Team
Week Six, Winter Session 2014

 

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Surprising Safari Adventure

Zoo Intern Quest 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 then blog about their experience online.  Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

Interns and I got to experience a day in the life of a mammal keeper at the Safari Park. We were expecting a ride in the keeper’s truck, but what we got was so much more…

Torrey Pillsbury (passenger’s side) and Jennifer Minichino (driver’s side) are hardworking Senior Mammal Keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. They get up bright and early every morning to begin their rounds, feeding and checking on their animals. By caring for the mammals at the Safari Park, Ms. Pillsbury and Ms. Minichino are helping wildlife conservation efforts worldwide by contributing to breeding programs for endangered species. We had the privilege of riding in their four-wheel drive beauty for the day.

Torrey Pillsbury (passenger’s side) and Jennifer Minichino (driver’s side) are hardworking Senior Mammal Keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. They get up bright and early every morning to begin their rounds, feeding and checking on their animals. By caring for the mammals at the Safari Park, Ms. Pillsbury and Ms. Minichino are helping wildlife conservation efforts worldwide by contributing to breeding programs for endangered species. We had the privilege of riding in their four-wheel drive beauty for the day.

Ms. Pillbury is displaying the keeper book that is used in all areas of the Safari Park to keep track of the animals, record any animal observations, and/or important information concerning their exhibit. If an animal looks injured or pregnant, it is noted here. Anything a keeper observes during their shift that they deem important is written down in the handy dandy notebook. Without it, keepers would have a difficult time communicating with each other between shifts about what the animals need to stay healthy and happy.

Ms. Pillbury is displaying the keeper book that is used in all areas of the Safari Park to keep track of the animals, record any animal observations, and/or important information concerning their exhibit. If an animal looks injured or pregnant, it is noted here. Anything a keeper observes during their shift that they deem important is written down in the handy dandy notebook. Without it, keepers would have a difficult time communicating with each other between shifts about what the animals need to stay healthy and happy.

The essential tools of a keeper: a rake, a shovel, a truck, and some food. The green branches on the left are acacia branches and the hay is excelsior hay, which many of the hoof stock at the Safari Park consume by the pound. Seriously though, scooping poop is a very important part of the job, so making sure you have a quality rake and shovel in essential.

The essential tools of a keeper: a rake, a shovel, a truck, and some food. The green branches on the left are acacia branches and the hay is excelsior hay, which many of the hoof stock at the Safari Park consume by the pound. Seriously though, scooping poop is a very important part of the job, so making sure you have a quality rake and shovel in essential.

(From left to right) Interns Samantha, Emily, Libby, and Tori are peeling acacia leaves off of their branches to feed to some animals unbeknownst to us. As we soon discovered, removing leaves from a tree is much easier if you are a giraffe. The sweet, sappy smell of the leaves wafted through the air of the Safari Park as we traveled towards our destination, the open fields.

(From left to right) Interns Samantha, Emily, Libby, and Tori are peeling acacia leaves off of their branches to feed to some animals unbeknownst to us. As we soon discovered, removing leaves from a tree is much easier if you are a giraffe. The sweet, sappy smell of the leaves wafted through the air of the Safari Park as we traveled towards our destination, the open fields.

While driving through the Asian Plains Exhibit, we encountered a prancing Indian blackbuck. His ears are turned downward because at the moment, another male was attempting to encroach upon his herd, and that, of course, just wouldn’t do. Although this animal is relatively miniature and cute, the acacia leaves were not for them. So who were the leaves for?

While driving through the Asian Plains Exhibit, we encountered a prancing Indian blackbuck. His ears are turned downward because at the moment, another male was attempting to encroach upon his herd, and that, of course, just wouldn’t do. Although this animal is relatively miniature and cute, the acacia leaves were not for them. So who were the leaves for?

This curious little orange east African Sitatunga also came over to check out our vehicle. The red tag in its ear helps the keepers identify who is who in the exhibit. A certain tag in combination with the ear notch can relay the number identification of the animal, the sex, or which family it belongs to. Since keepers often cannot get close enough to the animal to read a nametag, this system is very effective, especially at a distance.

This curious little orange east African Sitatunga also came over to check out our vehicle. The red tag in its ear helps the keepers identify who is who in the exhibit. A certain tag in combination with the ear notch can relay the number identification of the animal, the sex, or which family it belongs to. Since keepers often cannot get close enough to the animal to read a nametag, this system is very effective, especially at a distance.

A small group of deer seemed to take an interest in our truck. Maybe they know that it carries food?  These fluffy deer are called Indian Barasinghas, they are endangered in the wild, but the population at the Safari Park appears to be doing just fine. These deer are both healthy and happy!

A small group of deer seemed to take an interest in our truck. Maybe they know that it carries food? These fluffy deer are called Indian Barasinghas, they are endangered in the wild, but the population at the Safari Park appears to be doing just fine. These deer are both healthy and happy!

This Cape buffalo, whose relatives live in Africa, was just too cute to simply pass by, I mean, look at those big blue eyes! Since we had branches left over from our leaf stripping exercise, we gave these guys a snack. After all, they do need to eat several pounds of food a day.

This Cape buffalo, whose relatives live in Africa, was just too cute to simply pass by, I mean, look at those big blue eyes! Since we had branches left over from our leaf stripping exercise, we gave these guys a snack. After all, they do need to eat several pounds of food a day.

Here, we met Bhopu (pronounced BOH-POO). He is a greater one-horned rhino from India. He has great genes and is a fabulous candidate for breeding. When we fed Bhopu apples, he used his prehensile upper lip to (which acts like a finger) to grab the apples out of our hands. This resulted in some laughing and a large amount of stinky rhino slobber.

Here, we met Bhopu (pronounced BOH-POO). He is a greater one-horned rhino from India. He has great genes and is a fabulous candidate for breeding. When we fed Bhopu apples, he used his prehensile upper lip to (which acts like a finger) to grab the apples out of our hands. This resulted in some laughing and a large amount of stinky rhino slobber.

This beautiful greater one-horned rhino also coveted our apples and we were happy to oblige. However, tossing apples into a rhino’s mouth is not as easy as it looks, there were a couple missed shots that other animals cleaned up. She opened her mouth so wide we could see the molars in the back of her mouth, which are used for grinding plant material.

This beautiful greater one-horned rhino also coveted our apples and we were happy to oblige. However, tossing apples into a rhino’s mouth is not as easy as it looks, there were a couple missed shots that other animals cleaned up. She opened her mouth so wide we could see the molars in the back of her mouth, which are used for grinding plant material.

 

The giraffes see us coming! They are ready to chow down on some acacia leaves. From personal experience I can tell you that giraffes run and walk surprisingly fast for their size and height. Their necks are craned forward trying to get to the food as fast as they can! So that’s who the leaves were for…

The giraffes see us coming! They are ready to chow down on some acacia leaves. From personal experience I can tell you that giraffes run and walk surprisingly fast for their size and height. Their necks are craned forward trying to get to the food as fast as they can! So that’s who the leaves were for…

This is a Uganda giraffe. Check out that long tongue! Each inch of a giraffes tongue corresponds to one foot in neck length. Giraffes use their tongue to strip leaves off of tree branches. Their saliva is very thick and mucousy because acacia trees in Africa have long, sharp, thorns, and if a giraffe swallows a thorn, its saliva protects its esophagus and throat from being damaged. Needless to say, I discovered that giraffe spit is very thick.

This is a Uganda giraffe. Check out that long tongue! Each inch of a giraffes tongue corresponds to one foot in neck length. Giraffes use their tongue to strip leaves off of tree branches. Their saliva is very thick and mucousy because acacia trees in Africa have long, sharp, thorns, and if a giraffe swallows a thorn, its saliva protects its esophagus and throat from being damaged. Needless to say, I discovered that giraffe spit is very thick.

Sarah, our program supervisor, tries to hide the box of goodies unsuccessfully and the giraffes grab some easy leaves. Eventually, we were able to get the box out of their long-necked reach.

Sarah, our program supervisor, tries to hide the box of goodies unsuccessfully and the giraffes grab some easy leaves. Eventually, we were able to get the box out of their long-necked reach.

As I fed the giraffe a fresh green leaf, I could feel it’s breath of my hand and it didn’t matter that it was rather stinky because feeding a giraffe is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Being this close to such a unique and exotic animal was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

As I fed the giraffe a fresh green leaf, I could feel it’s breath of my hand and it didn’t matter that it was rather stinky because feeding a giraffe is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Being this close to such a unique and exotic animal was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On the way out of the plains, Ms. Pillsbury told us stories of her past keeper days and how she went from riding horses to riding elephants all when she was only nineteen years old. Of course, no one at the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park rides any of the animals now, for the safety of the keepers and the animals. We ended our amazing day by thanking the keepers for this amazing opportunity and left with an even stronger sense of admiration for the passion Zoo Keepers exhibit on and off the job.

On the way out of the plains, Ms. Pillsbury told us stories of her past keeper days and how she went from riding horses to riding elephants all when she was only nineteen years old. Of course, no one at the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park rides any of the animals now, for the safety of the keepers and the animals. We ended our amazing day by thanking the keepers for this amazing opportunity and left with an even stronger sense of admiration for the passion Zoo Keepers exhibit on and off the job.

Kalee, Photography Team,
Week Six, Winter Session 2014