Zoo InternQuest

Zoo InternQuest

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Biologists of Tomorrow

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!

What happens when eight high school interns meet at the San Diego Institute for Conservation Research? Answer: A mix of California condors, lab equipment, and hardcore genetic identification. Mrs. Maggie Reinbold, the Associate Director of Conservation Education at the San Diego Institute for Conservation Research, gave us the experience we will never forget.

Ready, Olivia? My fellow interns and I were more than enthusiastic about our own lab setups in the education lab at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

Ready, Olivia? My fellow interns and I were more than enthusiastic about our own lab setups in the education lab at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

California condors have an impressive wingspan of over nine feet! If you were to look up at the sky and see a condor from below, you would see the white, which is key in identifying the condor. If the white is closer to the shoulder of the bird, it is a condor. If it is further away from the shoulders, then it is a turkey vulture. In this picture you can see Mrs. Reinbold and my fellow intern Mark holding up an example of how large the California condor wingspan is.

California condors have an impressive wingspan of over nine feet! If you were to look up at the sky and see a condor from below, you would see the white, which is key in identifying the condor. If the white is closer to the shoulder of the bird, it is a condor. If it is further away from the shoulders, then it is a turkey vulture. In this picture you can see Mrs. Reinbold and my fellow intern Mark holding up an example of how large the California condor wingspan is.

Every strand of DNA contains four types of nucleic acids: guanine, cytosine, thymine, and adenine. These bases always pair with each other when DNA is being replicated. The replication of the DNA is crucial to the conservation of condors in that it will allow the chromosomes to be paired with each other and each individual condor can be genetically identified.

Every strand of DNA contains four types of nucleic acids: guanine, cytosine, thymine, and adenine. These bases always pair with each other when DNA is being replicated. The replication of the DNA is crucial to the conservation of condors in that it will allow the chromosomes to be paired with each other and each individual condor can be genetically identified.

We were given the opportunity to become biologists. We completed a module Mrs. Reinbold designed that required us to identify the genders of certain condors using their DNA. Isabella showed off her new skills in using a microscopic pipette as she practiced pipetting with different food dyes. After a couple practice rounds, we were eventually able to graduate to pipetting samples of condor DNA, primers, and polymerase.

We were given the opportunity to become biologists. We completed a module Mrs. Reinbold designed that required us to identify the genders of certain condors using their DNA. Isabella showed off her new skills in using a microscopic pipette as she practiced pipetting with different food dyes. After a couple practice rounds, we were eventually able to graduate to pipetting samples of condor DNA, primers, and polymerase.

It was really eye opening to be able to hold one of the primary reasons condors were nearly wiped off the planet. Since condors are scavengers and feed on the carcasses of other animals, anything found within the carcasses’ bloodstream would eventually be in the condor’s system. If a condor’s meal came from an animal that had been hunted using a lead bullet (as pictured above), the lead would eventually be in the condor’s system, which eventually resulted in death.

It was really eye opening to be able to hold one of the primary reasons condors were nearly wiped off the planet. Since condors are scavengers and feed on the carcasses of other animals, anything found within the carcasses’ bloodstream would eventually be in the condor’s system. If a condor’s meal came from an animal that had been hunted using a lead bullet (as pictured above), the lead would eventually be in the condor’s system, which eventually resulted in death.

Mrs. Reinbold prepared special e-gel pads. These pads contained a positive electrical charge, which attracted the negatively charged strands of DNA, once they were placed in the pad. Then, the strands would go through the pad, like a maze, and each individual chromosome would find its way to the positive charged bottom, based on its size.

Mrs. Reinbold prepared special e-gel pads. These pads contained a positive electrical charge, which attracted the negatively charged strands of DNA, once they were placed in the pad. Then, the strands would go through the pad, like a maze, and each individual chromosome would find its way to the positive charged bottom, based on its size.

Mrs. Reinbold demonstrates how we would insert our DNA samples into the e-gel pad. It was important that we accurately measure out the DNA so that the chromosomes would be in proportion and be able to find their way to the positively charged end of the pad. If the chromosomes took longer to reach the end, that meant the chromosomes were bigger, and vice versa. The size in chromosomes helped to determine the gender of our condor.

Mrs. Reinbold demonstrates how we would insert our DNA samples into the e-gel pad. It was important that we accurately measure out the DNA so that the chromosomes would be in proportion and be able to find their way to the positively charged end of the pad. If the chromosomes took longer to reach the end, that meant the chromosomes were bigger, and vice versa. The size in chromosomes helped to determine the gender of our condor.

We have a new biologist, everyone! My fellow intern, Wesley, measures out the DNA in his pipette before inserting it in the e-gel. It is extremely important for the DNA to be accurately measured because if it wasn’t, the reading can be less accurate. We don’t want to misidentify any condors here!

We have a new biologist, everyone! My fellow intern, Wesley, measures out the DNA in his pipette before inserting it in the e-gel. It is extremely important for the DNA to be accurately measured because if it wasn’t, the reading can be less accurate. We don’t want to misidentify any condors here!

And that’s a wrap! Mrs. Reinbold places our DNA e-gel pads under a UV light so that we could see how the chromosomes traveled down.

And that’s a wrap! Mrs. Reinbold places our DNA e-gel pads under a UV light so that we could see how the chromosomes traveled down.

Belle, Photography Team
Week One, Fall Session 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rolling with the Reptiles

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

The San Diego Zoo is home to a large variety of snakes, amphibians, and lizards. You wouldn’t believe how much goes on behind the scenes in the Reptile House!

Peter Gilson, a Reptile Keeper and Educator at the San Diego Zoo, showed us around the reptile exhibits and introduced us to many of the reptiles that call the Zoo home. Reptiles and amphibians are important to the environment since many of them eat insects, regulating populations of things like mosquitoes.

Peter Gilson, a Reptile Keeper and Educator at the San Diego Zoo, showed us around the reptile exhibits and introduced us to many of the reptiles that call the Zoo home. Reptiles and amphibians are important to the environment since many of them eat insects, regulating populations of things like mosquitoes.

Interns got to meet Sunny the Komodo dragon. When we arrived at his exhibit, he was just basking in the sun. Since Komodo dragons are cold-blooded, they have to regulate their temperature by either moving into the sun to warm up or by moving to the shade to cool down.

Interns got to meet Sunny the Komodo dragon. When we arrived at his exhibit, he was just basking in the sun. Since Komodo dragons are cold-blooded, they have to regulate their temperature by either moving into the sun to warm up or by moving to the shade to cool down.

This Grandma, one of the first Galapagos tortoises to arrive at the Zoo in 1928. She is believed to be over 120 years old! There is a white circle with a red number on her back, which helps keepers identify her when she is with the other tortoises. Females, like Grandma, have a red number inside of a white circle while males have their numbers written in white.

This Grandma, one of the first Galapagos tortoises to arrive at the Zoo in 1928. She is believed to be over 120 years old! There is a white circle with a red number on her back, which helps keepers identify her when she is with the other tortoises. Females, like Grandma, have a red number inside of a white circle while males have their numbers written in white.

Pictured here is Calvin, one of the male tortoises at the Zoo. Mr. Gilson is giving him a carrot as a treat. In addition to the treats, male tortoises are given six heads of various types of greens, including romaine lettuce, kale, and spinach, five times a week. This is done to simulate the period of times they would have to go without food in their natural habitat.

Pictured here is Calvin, one of the male tortoises at the Zoo. Mr. Gilson is giving him a carrot as a treat. In addition to the treats, male tortoises are given six heads of various types of greens, including romaine lettuce, kale, and spinach, five times a week. This is done to simulate the period of times they would have to go without food in their natural habitat.

Recently, the Zoo built a new barn for their tortoises. This sandy area is used for nesting since tortoises on the Galapagos Islands bury their eggs in the sand. There have been 96 successful hatches here at the Zoo! The lower parts of the walls in the barn are coated with a green protective buffer so that tortoises don’t scratch themselves on the concrete.

Recently, the Zoo built a new barn for their tortoises. This sandy area is used for nesting since tortoises on the Galapagos Islands bury their eggs in the sand. There have been 96 successful hatches here at the Zoo! The lower parts of the walls in the barn are coated with a green protective buffer so that tortoises don’t scratch themselves on the concrete.

Walking out of the barn, Mr. Gilson led us to the largest tortoise at the Zoo named Speedy. He’s around 150 years old and weighs about 575 lbs. Speedy is pictured here with my fellow intern, Alon. These neck scratches activate what is known as the “finch response.” Speedy is extending his neck and exposing most of his body, which allows finches to pick off insects and dead skin.

Walking out of the barn, Mr. Gilson led us to the largest tortoise at the Zoo named Speedy. He’s around 150 years old and weighs about 575 lbs. Speedy is pictured here with my fellow intern, Alon. These neck scratches activate what is known as the “finch response.” Speedy is extending his neck and exposing most of his body, which allows finches to pick off insects and dead skin.

The reptile walk is a new addition to the Zoo, which contains various species of amphibians and reptiles. Some of the species were native to California while others were from other parts of the world including Madagascar!

The reptile walk is a new addition to the Zoo, which contains various species of amphibians and reptiles. Some of the species were native to California while others were from other parts of the world including Madagascar!

Mr. Gilson took us inside one of the buildings and let us take a look behind the exhibits. These black structures are the back of the displays that visitors see as they walk through the pathway. Each of the exhibits are labeled with the name of the species and other information. Sticky notes with the letters “MT” indicate an empty exhibit – I think it’s a pretty clever code.

Mr. Gilson took us inside one of the buildings and let us take a look behind the exhibits. These black structures are the back of the displays that visitors see as they walk through the pathway. Each of the exhibits are labeled with the name of the species and other information. Sticky notes with the letters “MT” indicate an empty exhibit – I think it’s a pretty clever code.

Species not on display are kept behind the exhibits. These particular tanks contain various species of small frogs and Satanic geckos. Tadpoles are also kept behind the scenes, closely monitored and cared for so that they can develop and mature properly.

Species not on display are kept behind the exhibits. These particular tanks contain various species of small frogs and Satanic geckos. Tadpoles are also kept behind the scenes, closely monitored and cared for so that they can develop and mature properly.

From the Reptile Walk, we walked over to the Reptile House. I have to tell you, it’s pretty amazing (and very humid)!

From the Reptile Walk, we walked over to the Reptile House. I have to tell you, it’s pretty amazing (and very humid)!

Even though there are many reptiles on display in the Reptile House, there are many more that are kept off-exhibit. For instance, here is a critically endangered star tortoise from Burma. There are only 300 left in the world, so this particular tortoise is very valuable to the Zoo!

Even though there are many reptiles on display in the Reptile House, there are many more that are kept off-exhibit. For instance, here is a critically endangered star tortoise from Burma. There are only 300 left in the world, so this particular tortoise is very valuable to the Zoo!

Going deeper into the Reptile House, Mr. Gilson led us to the incubation room where some snake, lizard and tortoise eggs are kept. This room is kept cool and at a stable temperature, but the incubator temperatures vary. For some reptiles, the temperature at which eggs are incubated determines their sex.

Going deeper into the Reptile House, Mr. Gilson led us to the incubation room where some snake, lizard and tortoise eggs are kept. This room is kept cool and at a stable temperature, but the incubator temperatures vary. For some reptiles, the temperature at which eggs are incubated determines their sex.

On the other side of the reptile house is where they house some of the venomous snakes and lizards. Each of the containers has a red tag listed with both the scientific and common names for each reptile. In the event that someone is bitten by a venomous reptile, they take this tag with them so that doctors know how to treat the bite and which antivenin to use.

On the other side of the reptile house is where they house some of the venomous snakes and lizards. Each of the containers has a red tag listed with both the scientific and common names for each reptile. In the event that someone is bitten by a venomous reptile, they take this tag with them so that doctors know how to treat the bite and which antivenin to use.

When keepers have to handle venomous snakes or a snake has to undergo surgery, they use this specialized tube. This particular tube has a one-way opening that allows snakes to go in but not out. Their head remains within the tube which protects the keepers and veterinarians working with the animal.

When keepers have to handle venomous snakes or a snake has to undergo surgery, they use this specialized tube. This particular tube has a one-way opening that allows snakes to go in but not out. Their head remains within the tube which protects the keepers and veterinarians working with the animal.

Keepers also use face shields when working with venomous snakes and are also required to do so when they are handling or feeding the spitting cobras. Cobras are able to spit venom very accurately, so it is vital to use protective equipment when working with them. The Zoo does not mess around when it comes to the safety of both keepers and animals!

Keepers also use face shields when working with venomous snakes and are also required to do so when they are handling or feeding the spitting cobras. Cobras are able to spit venom very accurately, so it is vital to use protective equipment when working with them. The Zoo does not mess around when it comes to the safety of both keepers and animals!

Rose, Photography Team
Week One, Fall Session 2014

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Of Condors and Men

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 Zoos website!

oliviaThe California condor is a huge breed of bird with a wingspan of over nine feet wide. Their territory covers southern and central California, northern Arizona, and northern Baja California, Mexico. Most people have never seen one of these magnificent birds out in the wild. Thanks to San Diego Zoo Global, we are able to still catch a glimpse of them today. Back in 1987, there were just 22 California condors left out in the wild. San Diego Zoo Global worked in collaboration with other wildlife organizations to begin a captive breeding program to help bring their numbers up to a more sustainable population.

Maggie Reinbold, Associate Director of Conservation Education at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, explained how and why the population got so low. Hunters were using lead bullets, which cause lead poisoning in condors, just like it does in humans. Condors are scavengers, and often when a hunter shoots an animal and it gets away, or trims the carcass and leaves parts with bullets in them, a condor will eat it, ingesting the lead right along with it. Lead bullets are considered to be a major cause of California condors’ population decline. When this issue was brought to the attention of the California and Arizona governments, lead bullets were made illegal and copper bullets were a suggested replacement. Arizona instituted an education program for hunters on the dangers of leaving kills with lead bullets still intact and it has proven to be very beneficial in terms of assisting with the increase in condor population.

Microtrash, tiny pieces of glass, plastic, bottle caps, and other human trash, was another major cause of the condors’decline. Condors instinctively feed their chicks bits of bone fragments because it provides important nutrients to help them grow. It was discovered that condors raised in captive breeding program feed microtrash to their chicks, not recognizing that they are not bone chips. These condors had never been exposed to actual bone fragments, so the birds used the first shard-like objects they found. Unfortunately, microtrash eventually kills the chicks, keeping the condor population from growing. To fix this, researchers began exposing condors in the breeding program to bone chips.

One of the challenges when the breeding program first began was determining the sex of the birds and who to pair up with whom. This was such a challenge because condors are sexually monomorphic, which means that males and females look exactly the same– thus, researchers had to genetically test the animals to find out their gender. Working with Mrs. Maggie Reinbold, she showed us how scientists studying endangered species determine the gender of an individual. We used fancy pipettes, which sort of look little like the glass and rubber eyedropper devices that come to mind when we discuss science. These are used to measure and move tiny amounts of liquid (microliters– of which there are two million in a two-liter bottle of soda). Scientists use polymerase chain reaction, a technique that makes millions of copies of a certain piece of DNA- in this case, a part that was different in males and females, because they have different amounts of genetic information on the Z and W chromosomes. Like us, condors have sex chromosomes, but while we have X and Y, they have Z and W. We used the DNA polymerase method to create copies of this piece, and put it into tiny containers in a machine, which heats and cools the mixture over and over to facilitate the reaction. The final result was a mixture that, when exposed to a positive and negative charge, separates and creates one or two stripes of color visible under a blacklight. One stripe means the DNA came from a male, two means a female. This is the easiest way for researchers to determine the gender of sexually monomorphic animals, including the California condor. It also means that if you’re lucky enough to see one of these amazing creatures, you won’t know if it’s a boy or a girl.

The California condor is an incredible and ongoing success story, and has been brought back from the brink of extinction through the work of not only scientists but also governments and citizens. In this way, humans have contributed to both the endangerment and saving of a magnificent species, and the methods used to keep these animals are truly scientific marvels. The California condor is a story of interaction between the worlds of both conservation scientists and the average citizen.

Olivia, Real World Team
Week One, Fall Session 2014

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Conservation Education at its Best

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!

Maggie Reinbold is the Associate Director of Conservation Education at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. She is a talented educator, teaching people about how they can help to preserve the environment. Mrs. Reinbold facilitates teacher and student workshops and we had the opportunity to take part in an actual lesson she teaches about the amazing California condor.

These magnificent creatures, known for their black feathers, baldhead, and a wingspan of over nine feet, used to range from British Columbia, Canada all the way down to Baja California, Mexico. However, in 1987, only twenty-two were left on the entire planet! The decline of the condor was narrowed down to three main reasons: lead poisoning, habitat alteration, and poaching. As you can see, these are all man-made issues. Ironically, if humans had not intervened, condors would have gone extinct and the ecosystem would be cluttered with carcasses.

Condors are scavengers, meaning they search for dead animals and eat the remains. One of the ways condors get their food is by consuming an animal that was left by hunters. Unfortunately, sometimes these animals still have a lead bullet left in them. This can result in lead poisoning and ultimately death for the California condor. Fortunately, laws have been passed in California, which require fines and even jail time if a hunter is caught using lead bullets. Arizona is using education as a major component to help the hunters understand the risk of using lead bullets. Copper bullets were handed out to try as an alternative. The trial bullets, along with the education of the hunters have helped tremendously with increasing the size of the condor population.

In order for the condor numbers to reach the “not endangered” zone, a captive breeding program had to be established by San Diego Zoo Global other wildlife organizations. The California condor is sexually monomorphic, meaning that you cannot see the difference between a male bird and a female bird. Once the twenty-two California condors were genetically analyzed to determine who was female and who was male, scientists found distinct families among them. This means that these families were genetically different enough to reproduce while having viable offspring. However, only nineteen “founders” were able to successfully reproduce as some were too old or did not have enough genetic diversity to be mated with another condor. Even after the chicks are hatched, the “match making” continues; the scientists must make sure these offspring will have another condor to mate with. They do this by analyzing the genes in the blood and match one condor with another. This condor population continues to grow with over 450 breeding pairs today!

As more and more condors can be reintroduced into the wild, Mrs. Reinbold looks forward to the birds sharing their genes and creating genetic variety to ensure the survival of the California condor. As humans, we too can assist with the continuation of these impressive birds. Hunters could search for alternative bullets without lead to avoid the spread of lead poisoning. Though some may be more expensive, the preservation of the ecosystem is worth the cost. We only have one planet to live on and if we all work together to save one species at a time, like the California condor, we can succeed.

Isabella, Conservation Team
Week One, Fall Session 2014

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What’s the Haps on the Herps?

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!

markWhat exactly is a herp? Well, “herp” is short for herptiles, the group of animals known as reptiles and amphibians. That’s why people who study reptiles and amphibians are known as herpetologists. The San Diego Zoo’s herpetology collection is huge, containing over 1,300 animals! Sadly, many of the world’s reptiles are now under threat of becoming endangered or worse, extinct. We met with Peter Gilson, one of the Zoo’s educators, part-time keepers, and conservation researchers to learn more about what the San Diego Zoo has done to prevent that from happening.

Mr. Gilson gave us our first behind-the-scenes look with the Galapagos Tortoise exhibit. While handing out carrots and giving neck massages to the enormous reptiles, he explained to us the history of tortoise conservation, both here in San Diego and in the wild. The Galapagos tortoises here at the Zoo have been busy, having hatched 96 babies since they arrived in 1928, making them a real success story. Breeding programs for these gentle giants is essential, as most of the 14 subspecies in the wild are listed as vulnerable or endangered. In the wild, tortoise populations have been severely affected by habitat encroachment and human conflict. However, new laws and conservation programs have helped educate people around the islands, helping ensure the vitality of their species

Another major conservation issue that has the herpetology community scrambling for solutions has to do with amphibians. After being introduced to the Zoo’s amphibian collection, Mr. Gilson told us about chytrid fungus, a new species which is exterminating amphibians worldwide. The fungus works by digging into its victims’ skin, causing it to thicken. Since most amphibians breathe through their skin, this swelling prevents them from taking in the oxygen and other nutrients they need to survive. The scientific community currently hasn’t found a cure yet, but it is believed to be linked to the use of pesticides. The disease has spread fast, already covering most of the world’s prime amphibian habitat. According to Mr. Gilson, chytrid fungus has the potential to wipe out over a third of the amphibians on earth, and that is with generous estimates. Such a loss would be devastating, not just for the natural world, but for ours too. Amphibians are the world’s pest control, eating all the mosquitoes, locusts, and just about every insect that has ever caused humanity trouble. Without frogs and toads to keep them in check, pest populations could grow out of control.

Here at the Zoo, there are breeding programs in place to help save some of the most threatened amphibians before its too late. For instance, the Panamanian golden frog is extinct in the wild, and the Zoo has been working since 2003 to bring them back from the brink. As of right now, 20 individuals have been born at the Zoo. Unfortunately, these new frogs cannot return to the wild because their native habitat is still too toxic. On the bright side, because of the alarming speed at which chyrid fungus has spread, conservation teams have been forced to act fast. Organizations like the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (or ICUN) has declared over 6,000 species of amphibians as vulnerable or endangered, and are dedicated to finding a solution as fast as possible.

Despite the success of the Galapagos tortoises and Panamanian golden frogs, one of the Zoo’s most impressive achievements in reptile conservation is probably the Caribbean rock iguana. Mr. Gilson explained to the interns how he was fortunate enough to work with the rock iguana breeding program, which has been going on for over 18 years. There are three species of rock iguana which San Diego Zoo Global has been working to protect: the Grand Cayman Blue, the Anegada, and the Jamaican. They are all threatened, but the Grand Cayman and Jamaican iguanas are some of the most endangered reptiles in the world. In their natural environment, these huge lizards play a very important role in seed dispersion. Iguanas carry seeds from the fruit they eat across their island homes, and then deposit them to new areas in the form of iguana dung. In order to demonstrate how important the relationship between the iguanas and the plants that they eat, Mr. Gilson told us that many of the Sea Grape plants here in the San Diego Zoo were actually planted from Iguana poop! In their habitat, Rock Iguanas are threatened by invasive species like dogs and rats, which eat their eggs and young hatchlings. With the help of captive breeding, over 700 individuals have been released into the wild, significantly boosting rock iguana population. This, along with efforts to control invasive species has helped to keep these fascinating creatures from dying out.

As a lover of all things reptilian, this experience was truly memorable. Not only was I able get a hands-on view of what goes on with these creatures behind closed doors, but I also had the opportunity to really learn about the pressing issues regarding their survival outside of the Zoo. Having seen what good work is being done for these animals around the world, I strongly recommend to anyone interested to donate to San Diego Zoo Global’s Wildlife Conservancy (endextinction.org). Whatever amount, no matter how small, will make a difference. As for myself, after seeing what Mr. Gilson and others like him are doing for reptile conservation, I can only say that I want in.

Mark, Conservation Team
Week One, Fall Session 2014

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A Star in the Conservation Community

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!

In 1987, there were only 22 California condors left on the planet. With the help of San Diego Zoo Global and other wildlife organizations, there are over 400 condors today, which include 240 condors living in the wild. Saving the California condor wasn’t just about breeding more, it was also about educating the public on why their population was decreasing and how we could get the general public could help. Maggie Reinbold is one of the valuable components spreading education awareness about the California condor.

Maggie Reinbold, the Associate Director of Conservation Education at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in zoology and a master’s degree in genetics. In college, she researched genetic populations of desert aquatic insects in Baja California. Mrs. Reinbold first joined the Institute for Conservation Research in 2005 as a summer research fellow in the Genetics Division and has been an active part in the Zoo’s mission of preserving species and the environment ever since. Her position as Associate Director for Conservation Education consists of teaching workshops and being a liaison between the scientific community and the general public. Through these responsibilities, she is able to inform the public and draw awareness to the many problems adversely affecting species in our area and all over the world. Bringing awareness to people outside the scientific community is vital to making the vision of San Diego Zoo realistic.

A typical day at work for Mrs. Reinbold can vary greatly. You may find her teaching a workshop to students about the California condors, their place in the environment, their past struggles, and their current comeback. You could find her at a college or high school lecturing the class about how the discovery of the Polymerase Chain Reaction by Kary B. Mullis contributed to the preservation of the condors and many other endangered species. She could be found engaging in field research working with various species on the brink of endangerment and extinction. Specifically, on Thursday, you would have found her teaching a class of excited high school interns how to pipette condor DNA, polymerase, and universal primer. In the end, no matter where she is or what she is doing, conservation education is being spread by her devotion to teaching all ages what is actually happening to our Earth.

One of her Mrs. Reinbold’s greatest passions is appreciating the Earth. Mrs. Reinbold is one, along with many others, who live to preserve and promote biodiversity. Her self-stated “life’s work” is to spread her hero’s, Edward O. Wilson, message of the individual importance of each species in the biosphere as a whole. She believes, wholeheartedly and rightfully so, that biodiversity must be valued more so than practically any other element that humanity is involved with. New “converts” of all ages emerge daily to the conservation mission through Mrs. Reinbold’s capturing lectures and hands-on demonstrations. She is, without a doubt, one of the most necessary and important people in the conservation community.

Wesley, Careers Team
Week One, Fall Session 2014

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Fearless

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!

alonInterns had the opportunity to get to know one of the San Diego Zoo’s reptile keepers and educators, Peter Gilson. He was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. Even though he never saw any reptiles in Alaska, he developed a passion for them by the age of four. He told us what inspired him most was seeing Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin handle extremely venomous snakes fearlessly on TV. I have to tell you, Mr. Gilson is just as fearless as them. He told us he would rather pick up a crocodile than a macaw. When I asked why he was so confident around reptiles, his answer was simple, “Reptiles are way more predictable.”

Mr. Gilson went to school at Point Loma Nazarene and graduated with a major in Environmental Science and a minor in Communications. He chose Environmental Science because he knew he wanted to focus on Ecology and Field Biology. This also helped him explain why conservation is so important by sharing his stories that he got while on the field. He chose to minor in communications because he saw it as a valuable tool so that he could present and teach. A huge factor in getting his job was having experience. His advice for anyone interested in being a zookeeper is to first, be passionate for the job, and second, get experience. He got experience through an internship at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research where he had to catalogue 50 years of incubations. He also had to analyze all the different temperatures and the success rates that those temperatures yielded. This helped keepers know which temperatures were best for certain eggs, which in turn could lead to more successful hatchings. Another important part of his job is being comfortable as a public speaker. He has to be able to talk to a crowd as he interacts with animals. His minor in Communications has helped him tremendously with this part of his job.

Mr. Gilson has worked with San Diego Zoo Global for five years sharing his time between being an educator and a reptile keeper. As well as having a passion for reptiles, he also has a passion for educating people on the importance of conservation. He wants to continue working with San Diego Zoo Global as an educator, but he wants to devote more time to conservation education. Conservation stands out to him because many people don’t understand the significance of the issues facing the planet. He would like to focus on reptile and amphibian conservation because that is what is most dear to him. As we spoke to him he told us about chytrid fungus. Chytrid fungus is a fungus that can cause a very fatal, infectious disease in amphibians. This disease is responsible for a large decline in the amphibian population and is estimated to wipe out even more. Mr. Gilson wants to bring this problem to light and ensure their survival by showing how unique reptiles and amphibians really are.

The way Mr. Gilson talked about the reptiles and amphibians made me realize how passionate he really is, and that his fearlessness comes from his passion. If you want a job like his, you have to be passionate, determined, and willing to learn.

Alon, Careers Team
Week One, Fall Session 2014

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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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Conservation 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!

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