Name: Meaghan Graver
Class Year: 2016
Hometown: Enon, OH
Internship: Conservation Education Intern, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research
Location: Escondido, CA
So, for this summer I am focusing on the palm oil issue. This is a really big deal! Palm oil is in virtually everything, from shampoo to cookies! Sometimes, you don’t even realize the product you’re using has palm oil in it! (See attached link to 50(!) names for palm oil) It is the most used vegetable oil in the world, and rightfully so. Oil palm, the plant from which palm oil is derived, yields much more oil per acre than any other plant! So what’s the issue? The demand for palm oil is causing an increase in oil palm plantations. It’s where all the money’s at. Unfortunately because of this, loggers are clearing most of the rainforests. They often utilize the “slash and burn” method, where everything viable is taken and the remaining land is burned. Because of oil palm plantations, and roads to access them, much of the natural rainforest is being destroyed. This is not good because it takes away the natural habitat of many endemic species. Many species are now endangered or threatened due to the effects of deforestation; but, there is hope! As a response to this crisis, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established with the vision of ensuring all palm oil on the market is sustainable (e.g. not harming species). Many corporations are members of the RSPO which means they are committed to selling only sustainable products (check out links at the end to find out more).
Picture taken at the Orangutan enclosure at the San Diego Zoo
What Else Have I Been Doing?
In addition to reading, I developed a human behavioral study and have been in the San Diego Zoo observing visitors around the palm oil signage. Now I am gearing up to survey people about their palm oil knowledge! I’ve also had the opportunity to talk with some pretty cool people including the head of the Zoo Education department! I’ve gone behind the scenes with the tigers and learned a lot from the lion and elephant keepers. I hope to get to talk with the Red Panda Keepers sometime before I leave! I've also been sure to spend lots of time just enjoying the Zoo and Safari Park!
The California Experience
So while in sunny Southern California, I’ve also been sure to do some exploring. From Hellhole Canyon to the beach, weekends are certainly busy. Macie and I have finally narrowed down a beach we think is pretty cool (there’s less kelp) but now that we’re schmoozing with the locals who knows! We’ve tried the highly built up California Burrito – it has French fries in it. It’s pretty good. We’ve also experienced the madness that is the San Diego County Fair. IT’S HUGE!
You can almost see the seals at La Jolla
-Some of the tigers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are still young enough that they enjoy being together in pairs. However for the keepers, who need fecal samples from each individual daily, this can be tricky. How do they fix it? GLITTER! The tigers ingest different colored glitter every few days to ensure that their feces are identifiable.
-San Diego County has more biodiversity than any other county in North America!
Check out this site for lots of information including 50 names that palm oil is also called:
Philadelphia Zoo UNLESS project (Personally love this project especially because they make use of my fave quote):