Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hello from the Wilds!

Rachel Dalton-- The Wilds

Name: Rachel Dalton
Class Year: 2016
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Internship: Conservation Science Research Intern, The Wilds
Location: Cumberland, OH

Hi! My name is Rachel Dalton, I just finished my sophomore year as a Zoo and Conservation Science major at Otterbein, and I am very excited to be a research intern at the Wilds this summer! The Wilds is a ~10,000 acre safari park and conservation center (the largest in the country!), located in Cumberland, OH. It is home to many species, both exotic and native, as well as a diverse array of conservation, restoration ecology, and animal health management research initiatives. I will be working in the conservation science area, examining the potential use of eDNA detection and quantification via qPCR for assessing proximity/distribution of Indian rhino populations! More on that soon J

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be here with my fellow Otterbein student, zoo major, research lab member (shout-out to the Young lab!), and awesome friend, Mollie! There are 8 other conservation science interns, and 3 restoration ecology interns that are participating in the Wilds Scholars intern program as well. 

Mollie and I rocking our awesome uniform shirts! We were also keeping an eye out for beavers-- there is a beaver lodge in the lake right behind our cabin!

We had orientation for the first two days of this week. On Monday, we learned about the Wilds itself, including its history as a former surface mine and the restoration process that followed (and is still very much continuing to this day), logistical matters such as how to access administrative buildings and field work sites, navigating inside and around the perimeter of the grounds, all about the Conservation Science and Restoration Ecology programs here at the Wilds from Directors Joe Greathouse and Shana Byrd, and more. We also received our name badges and uniform shirts!

 Today we had an open air bus tour and got to see all of the animal pastures and such, which was fun. Here are a few pics:

Sichuan takin


African wild dog

Southern white rhinos!

Scimitar horned oryx. Note the babies :)

A dhole, which is an Asiatic wild dog.

Bactrian camels

The Wilds is beautiful.


This afternoon we also had the opportunity to have Rick Dietz, who is Vice President of the Wilds, and Dan Beetem, the Director of Animal Management, come and speak to our group about what they do. I was especially fascinated by the greater detail that Dan provided regarding the Wilds’ involvement in the Sichuan takin project. The Wilds works with a Sichuan takin conservation organization in China to help monitor and promote conservation of populations over there (Sichuan takin are very endangered), and is able to develop techniques for doing so with its Sichuan takin herd here in Ohio. This includes developing tracking collars, anesthesia techniques, herd behavior ethograms, and more. This may not seem like that big of a deal, but it would be problematic if, for example, one were to develop tracking collars, take them over to China, and then discover they are easily removed/destroyed by takin. So, developing and figuring out things like that here first is really helpful. Dan also spoke about how genomics will likely be incorporated into captive breeding programs in the future. Being able to sequence the genomes of breeding individuals would allow those involved in managing breeding programs to get a very accurate picture of the relatedness of individuals. Maximizing and maintaining genetic diversity in captive breeding populations is very important (inbreeding can result in less healthy/less fit offspring), and genomics would contribute significantly to this. 

Tomorrow we will learn about how to care for the larval hellbenders being raised here at the Wilds. Hellbenders are an endangered, stream-dwelling amphibian, and the Wilds is working on a reintroduction project with the goal of reestablishing hellbender populations here in Ohio. The interns will be assigned days to do hellbender care.

I am so excited and thankful for the opportunity to be here, and can't wait to get started on my study! I will post again soon with more info about my project and other adventures. For now, I am off to go hunt for more eDNA journal articles J



  1. You both look so awesome in your uniforms! I hope you are having a blast (although I'm sure you are)!

    1. Hey thanks! It's definitely been awesome. Can't wait to read your posts too! Miss ya!