Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dallas Zoo Internship

Delaney Lyons
Powell, Ohio
Records/ Nutrition Intern
The Dallas Zoo

Hey ya’ll!  My name is Delaney Lyons and I’m currently in Dallas, Texas interning at the Dallas Zoo for 10 weeks.   It has been a month since I first started and I’ve already been able to have so many experiences, networking opportunities, and moments of self-reflection. 

For the first 5 weeks of my internship I worked with Sue Greer, the zoo’s registrar.   As a registrar's intern, I had the responsibility of keeping track of the husbandry, medical, and historical records of the zoo. I also found as a registrar for the zoo, I had to act like a detective.  I put clues together in order to get the entire picture. While shadowing the registrar, my project was to enter historical necropsies from the Dallas Zoo into Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), allowing veterinarians and staff to use this data to make educated decisions. In addition to this project, I was fortunate enough to work closely with the hospital’s veterinarians, veterinarian technicians, and hospital keepers. So many individuals made my experience in the hospital memorable.  While interning I sat in on surgeries, observed post-mortem dissections, and assisted the hospital keepers. This internship has made me realize that I want to work in an animal hospital in the future!

While interning on June 25th, the Dallas Zoo a baby gorilla was born!  This gorilla was the first baby gorilla born here in 20 years. Being part of this experience was truly remarkable.  What is cuter than a baby gorilla?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Rainy Days and Pandas Play!

Names: Chelsey Butler and Catherine Jenkins
Class Year: 2019 and 2020
Hometown: Williamstown, WV and Proctorville, OH
Internship: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan, China

Believe it or not our time here in China has come to an end! After a fun filled 10 weeks it is time for us to return home to the states. This trip has been full of many unique learning opportunities and we are truly grateful that we got to experience this country. Not only did we get to see the hustle and bustle of the city but we also got to see the country side of China while climbing QingCheng Mountain.

The past two weeks we have continued working on our research project as well as watching training with the giant pandas. We also had the pleasure of listening to a talk from Dr. Wu about his research that combines physics and biology. We even gave our own talk to the Panda Base about our experiences here along with what the Zoo and Conservation Science program is all about. We have not been the only visitors at the base, this week we have met two keepers from the Copenhagen Zoo. One is an elephant keeper and the other is a primate keeper. We also got to see "The First Giant Panda Environmental Enrichment Project Design Competition" held at the base. The staff from separate sections of the Base were divided into three teams that each came up with their own enrichment items. The enrichment items were judged on categories such as originality, safety, and appearance. The winner of the competition was an enrichment item that they called the surprise ball. The staff the from the Sunshine Nursery and Delivery House created the enrichment, and we were so proud that the group that we got to work with won!

In our last couple of weeks here not only did we observe the pandas but we went with James to have hot pot and see the Incredibles 2! We even got to have a nice dinner at Blue Frog with the keepers from Denmark and watch the England vs Belgium game from the World Cup!
Hot Pot!!
We have throughly enjoyed our time in China and can not believe how fast it has gone. We will miss the pandas along with the staff from the Panda Base and are so thankful for this opportunity. We will be leaving China tomorrow and look forward to reuniting with our families and friends!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Update from China!

Names: Chelsey Butler and Catherine Jenkins
Class Year: 2019 & 2020
Hometown: Williamstown, WV and Proctorville, OH
Internship: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Location Chengdu, Sichuan, China

The past two weeks we have started collecting data for our research project. We had to learn which panda is which within a short amount of time but after a couple of days we were able to distinguish Qing Da and Qing Xiao. The twin brothers are housed in the Giant Panda Number 2 House along with 4 other pandas. Each day we collect data on the pandas for one to one and a half hours in the morning and thirty minutes to an hour in the afternoon. In the afternoons before collecting data we are able to go with James and see how he trains the pandas.

Last week, James took us on a road trip to see another part of Panda Base called Panda Valley. It is located in Dujiangyuan which is an hour away from Chengdu. This is where the beginning of the reintroduction training starts for the pandas. Panda Valley has beautiful scenery and a large diversity of plants and animals. Pandas were the main attraction but we also saw many different species of lizards, butterflies, snakes, and a squirrel!

A couple of weekends ago we went to see the Leshan Giant Buddha. It's truly amazing how large and massive the Buddha is along with how it has been preserved over the years. It was said in the ancient poem that the Leshan Giant Buddha was carved into the rock face by the river. At the Leshan Giant Buddha there was a spot where you are able to see three rivers merge. There were also many beautiful views of the water and the city.

At IFS they were having Nature Connects, it was presented by Chengdu IFS and showcased the artist Sean Kenney's work. Each sculpture was built with LEGO pieces. At each location there was the name of the sculpture, such as Bison or Dodo, along with how many blocks it took to build and a fact about that sculpture. The exhibit was used to promote education to the public about conserving different biomes and the animals that you can find in them.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The CCP travels, learning conservation and restoration first hand!

Name: Kyle Turner
Class Year: Class of 2019
Hometown: Pickerington, Ohio
Internship: Houston Zoo Collegiate Conservation Program
Location: Houston Zoo, Texas
Dates covered:  05/28/2018- 06/16/2018

Hello again everyone!  Things have been busy and exciting down here in Houston.  With being on the go these past weeks, I now have so much to catch you all up on.  The Collegiate Conservation Program (CCP) team has gotten to work on multiple projects, met even more influential people from the Houston Zoo, and have enjoyed our first day with Gabriel Massocato.

Working at Brazos Bend State Park to remove invasive Alamo Switchgrass

Payton and Robert cutting down the infamous Chinese Tallow Tree!

Week three started us off meeting with Mary Kate Kunzinger, Bennett Dones, and Peter Riger.  Mary Kate Kunzinger is the Conservation Sustainability Coordinator at the Houston Zoo and she talked to us about how the Houston Zoo keeps pushing towards sustainability.  Their most recent feat was ditching single use plastics throughout the facility.  Bennett Dones is the interpretative program supervisor, and he is known for his charismatic personality with both Zoo guests and staff.  He explained how his style of interpretation has evolved and adapted over the years, and with him we learned different styles of engaging guests.  Peter Riger is the Vice President of Conservation and we were fortunate to have lunch with him to ask him about his job and for career advice.  It was amazing to hear that he has traveled to Borneo, Africa, Madagascar, and other wildlife hotspots!  We also continued our animal handling.  I teamed up with Zoe to present a baby Greek tortoise to our guests, and I think we had a few junior herpetologists come up to us.  Later, the team got to head out and work at multiple different facilities for invasive species removal.  Our first project was at Brazos Bend State Park, where the CCP dug out Alamo Switch Grass.  After we filled up two truckloads, we had lunch and then walked one of the trails and saw three alligators! At the end of the week, we drove to Katy Prairie Conservancy and chopped down Chinese Tallow.  We pulled up young shoots, sprayed some older trees, but we also took down some adult trees. My group started the shift in a shaded riparian, but after we were done the sun could once again reach the ground.  It was amazing to see the results of our labor.

Here in the CCP, we aren’t afraid to get a little wet.

Week four we spent two days working with the Galveston Bay Foundation.  The first day was my favorite day of our week.  That was the day we went out and made 50 feet of oyster reef.  The CCP bagged recycled oyster shells from local restaurants and took six tons of oysters into the bay.  We then started laying down our bags into the water to help build a natural buffer between the shore and the waves to prevent erosion and to protect the planted nursery marsh.  Day two with Galveston we helped cut back and clear a part of a trail they manage.  It was interesting to see both sides, marine and land, of the Galveston Bay Foundation projects.  In the middle of the week we went to the Nature Discovery Center to help them remove Screech Owl nesting boxes since it was the end of the nesting season.  By this time the owls have reared their young and moved on for the year.  We removed around 30 boxes, some we could not take down because of different reasons.  One nesting box was engulfed by a massive beehive while another gave us a small surprise, my teammate Sheila was shocked by a screech owl still inside!  
Whoooo dares disturb the nesting screech owl?  Sheila, that’s who
This owl had lost its nest to bees earlier in the season, and so we guess it decided to stay back and raise another clutch!  To end this week we had an overnight at the Zoo.  To start the night we went to Waugh Drive Bat Bridge, where we saw a small colony of bats emerge and fly away.  It was similar to Bracken, but just a fraction of the bats.  Here we also learned and saw another effect of Harvey.  This bat colony was hit by the massive flooding and we were told how local community came out to fish bats out of the water to save as many as they could.  The bats that survived will create the next generation of their species.  To me it was another example of how the communities resolve to help others during this natural disaster and it is so inspiring to hear how far the hearts of some people reached out.  After we watched the bats we went back to the zoo and had our night tour.  We got to hear how the zoo engaged with their .guests in a different way, we were an anomaly to the usual overnight guests because as of now there are no adult only overnights.  The Houston Zoo is looking into creating adult overnights and hit a new area for education for adults.  It was amazing to see the Zoo after hours, things are very different once the sun goes down.  In the morning we went on the morning tour where we got to see the animals before the Zoo opened.  It was a pleasant way to end our week because we got to explore and take in the Zoo in a different way.

We are learning the purpose of these acclimation pens for the Attwater Prairie Chickens.

Week five we got to talk with zoo staff and we learned about Project Dragonfly and other Master’s/ grad school opportunities.  We went to Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary where we helped them weed and organize their nursery.  This nursery is where restoration projects and places/people that want natural plants go to for their native plants.  The CCP also got to go and visit the Attwater Prairie Chicken Native Wildlife Refuge.  There we learned about the conservation effort to save the Attwater Prairie Chicken which they estimate to have only around 25 left in the wild.  While we were there the team helped organize some nets.  The nets are used to assemble the acclimation pens for the Prairie Chickens soft release into the wild.  This week we worked on Saturday where the Collegiate Conservation Program presented the Giant Anteater Spotlight On Species (SOS).  We educated guests about two Brazilian giants, the giant anteater and the giant armadillo.  We had a faux giant armadillo burrow where we taught them about being an ecosystem engineer.  There were keeper talks given by the hoof stock department for the zoo’s giant anteater.  The Giant Armadillo Project is tracking a new giant anteater and we had the public vote on what we would call it!   We also had a digging game to compare how much dirt people can move to that of a giant armadillo.  However, the best part about this day was we had a special guest.  We got to meet with the Giant Armadillo Project Biologist that the Houston Zoo sponsors, Gabriel Massocato.  Gabriel was born in Brazil and he is one of seven to work for the Giant Armadillo Project.  He is an amazing guy and he shared with us his knowledge about these Brazilian giants and worked with us on growing our abilities to being conservationists. 

There is so much I want to say about him because it is amazing how much his passion for these animals shows.  We were fortunate to have six days with Gabriel, which I will have to tell you all later.  It is invaluable to have the opportunity to meet and talk with field biologist since they have different insight on how conservation plays out.  It is not everything you read in the text books, it is so much more.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

We're (Hogs)BACK!

Names: Eileen Connon and Mallory Fox
Hometowns: Mandeville, LA and Harrison, OH
Internship: Cape Parrot Project Research Intern
Location: South Africa

Well hello again! A lot has happened since we last talked. Firstly, after leaving Durban, we spent two weeks in Kruger National Park, recording vocalizations of grey-headed and brown-headed parrots! They are not as easy to find as Cape parrots, let us tell you. Between observations and sometimes during (one person would volunteer to stay behind), we completed the first step of analysis on nearly nine and a half hours of vocal recordings. We went through and picked out each and every individual call from those recordings- 7942 of them! 
A brown-headed parrot in Kruger
Over five thousand of those calls were Capes, to give you an idea of how much trouble we had finding the grey-headeds and brown-headeds. The brownies were easier than the greys, but nicknaming them 'brownies' did have the unfortunate side effect of giving us very strong, unfulfillable cravings for chocolatey desserts! Luckily, we did manage to find some grey-headed parrots, since they were our main reason for going to Kruger, and we successfully recorded enough vocalizations for Dr. Young's research. 

A beautiful leopard in Kruger- we spent almost twenty minutes
watching it and no other cars came by to bother us
The best part about staying in Kruger for two weeks was the non-internship parts, though! (Don't tell Dr. Young we said that...) We were able to see 4 of the Big 5: lions, leopard, elephants, and buffalo. We unfortunately didn't see any rhinos. We also saw 5 of the Big 6 birds of Kruger: martial eagle, kori bustard, Southern ground hornbill, saddle-billed stork, and lappet-faced vulture. The only one we didn't get was Pel's fishing owl. Overall, we saw 142 bird species and 36 mammal species!

A Natal spurfowl at a Kruger picnic area- Eileen left her hand
dangling next to her chair and got a little nip!
We also saw a lot of Kruger itself. We primarily stayed at Punda Maria Camp, but we spent a weekend at Shingwedzi Camp and traveled to Letaba Camp and Pafuri Gate/Crook's Corner. Crook's Corner is the northeaster-est part of South Africa, and it's where Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa are separated by the confluence of the Luvuvhu River and the Limpopo River. Apparently, poachers and other criminals from all three countries would use this confluence during the dry season to cross country borders and avoid arrest!

The first elephant spotted in Kruger!
Professional photographer Mallory at work
 One of the most beneficial aspects of this part of the trip was practicing our field research techniques in a much more difficult and stressful environment. Everywhere else we recorded, we were free to walk around and follow the parrots, but in Kruger, you aren't allowed to leave your vehicle. If we thought it was difficult to put together and maneuver the recording equipment before, it was nothing compared to using it in the backseat of a car, passing the mic back and forth as birds flew overhead. The biggest test was when we unexpectedly found brown-headed parrots near Crook's Corner- we whipped that equipment out, put it together, and got recordings within just a few minutes! It got frustrating to try and work with all of the wires and whatnot in the car, but then we'd see a herd of elephants or buffalo, or a group of lions, and remember that staying in our vehicle was definitely a smart idea! 

A beautiful harvest moon one night in Kruger
Dr. Young, Eileen, and Mallory at Crook's Corner
Other highlights of the Kruger part of the trip include delicious food, meddlesome monkeys, and gorgeous views! We had a couple of meals at the rest camp restaurants, including a life-changing veggie burger topped with feta and onion rings. We also had a couple of primate-related food incidents. Mallory was almost eaten (hyperbole) by a baboon when cooking fajitas on our outdoor kitchen at Shingwedzi camp. Eileen saw its hands reaching for the food from inside her room and wisely stayed inside. There was also an incident at Punda Maria where we left the door open for too long and a vervet monkey snuck in and nabbed two bananas and our last avocado! And finally, we did get to see some amazing sights. The harvest moon we saw one night was absolutely breathtaking. We were up before dawn, so we saw some pretty spectacular sunrises. Driving up to the camp, we drove through mopane veld, or landscape covered in mopane trees, which are short, bushlike trees with beautifully vibrant leaves, and up by Crook's Corner we drove through fever tree forests. At Crook's Corner and a couple of camps, we looked out over vast, partially dried up riverbeds and all of the wildlife that came down to drink from them. It was very hard to leave on the last day!

Research team in Kruger- at Red Rocks, one of the few
locations where it's safe to leave your car
Eileen hard at work measuring "Squawky"
 After one night spent near Pretoria with some of Cassie's family and two long days of driving, we've now made it back to Hogsback! Dr. Young has, sadly, left us. She spent a week in The Gambia looking for more parrots to record before heading back to the States. Before she left, she and Eileen started practicing measuring parrot specimens for Eileen's research! Since she's left, we've been working hard (or hardly working?) doing morning observations and surveying nests with Cassie. We've done observations at several locations around Hogsback as well as in nearby Alice and Fort Beaufort. Observations consist of getting to a site before the sun comes up so that when it does, you can see where the parrots are coming from when they fly out for the day. We record where the parrots fly from and to, and their roosting site if we can tell where that is. For the nest survey, we've been driving around in the bakkie (truck) to trees with known natural cavities or man-made nest boxes to see how the trees and the nests are doing. The main problems we encounter are collapsed nest boxes and bee-infested boxes or cavities, but we've also come across a few fallen trees as well. So far, we've surveyed 92 out of 228 nests! 
When we aren't in the field, we've also been doing a lot of work in the office. We've analyzed two years worth of photos of Cape parrot flocks, counting the numbers of males, females, and juveniles, and counting the number of birds that look sick. We've also been working even more on the vocal recordings for Dr. Young, and on new recordings that Cassie has given us. It can get tedious to sit in an office on a computer when you can see the forest and the mountains through the window, and hear the birds calling or watch the baboons walk past just outside, but luckily we're taking turns going out every day so no one has to be stuck inside for too long. 

Of course, it's not all work and no play here, either! We've done some hiking around town, and we spend a lot of time eating good food at the local pub with our friends Lana and Craig. Eileen's parents even came to visit, and promptly adopted Mallory as well. We spend a lot of time befriending the local wildlife- a chameleon we found on a hike, a spider Kate caught in the tree nursery, a local cat that decided Eileen's bed would be the best place to sleep, and more. And when we get homesick, we also go to the pub, because there are always dogs to keep us company!

Hiking on a beautiful day with Eileen's parents!

Something Eileen loves but most
people hate about Africa...

Eileen with Barney and Mallory with Trompie, two of the awesome pub dogs!

 That's all for this post! We still have a couple more weeks and a lot more work to do, so stay tuned for more updates!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Pandas and Peaks!!

Names: Chelsey Butler and Catherine Jenkins 
Class Year: 2019 and 2020
Hometown: Williamstown, WV and Proctorville, OH 
Internship: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding 
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan, China 

After another fun filled week we are down to one month left in our internship! It has gone by so fast!
For the past two weeks we have been in the husbandry department for one week and then James, our research mentor, returned for the second week. In the husbandry department, there has been a lot of hustle and bustle due to the fact that it is baby season!! In the Sunshine Nursery House there has been four cubs born, two sets of twins!!! Fecal samples are collected from the cubs every morning which we now collect. Samples are collected from the Sunshine Nursery House as well as the Moonlight Nursery House which are then brought to the research lab.

For the past week we have been observing a group of six giant pandas in Panda House #2. Two of the pandas in this enclosure were watched in previous years when they were one year old cubs. We are using the same ethogram that was used in the past to collect more behavioral data on these pandas as well as give some insight on how the behaviors change as they age. We will now been collecting data for the next four weeks to come.

As one of our many adventures, we decide to climb Qingcheng Mountain! We started off by riding the bullet train to get to the stop where the mountain was. Then after arrival we road in a mini bus that took us the the bottom of the mountain. We decide to go to the backside of the mountain instead of the front because of its scenic views and beautiful waterfalls. After MANY MANY MANY steps later we finally reached the top and went to the White Cloud Temple! There were many breath-taking views and climbing the mountain made us see the other side of China.

After climbing the mountain on Saturday, Sunday we thought we deserved a juicy burger and loaded fries. There is a burger restaurant here called Red Beard Burgers, that is owned by a man who is from America. With many delicious and unique options it was hard to choice which cheesy delight we wanted to choose first. The food was almost as amazing as the staff. We spent a majority of our day talking to the host, hostess, and the owner as well.

The time has really flown by and we have enjoyed every second!! We can't wait for more adventures to come!!