Monday, July 20, 2015

A Summer In Chicago

Name: Mollie Kemp
Class/Year: Class of 2016, Senior
Hometown: Clear Spring, Maryland
Location: Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
Internship: Animal Welfare Research Extern

Hey everybody! I'm back with another adventure, if you happened to read my blog last year. Anyway, welcome readers old and new :)

So this summer, I have been given the great opportunity to be an extern at the Brookfield Zoo/ Chicago Zoological Society. I was particularly thrilled about this because Brookfield is one of the premier zoos involved in the research field. I feel strongly that research should be a priority of zoos, so I was excited to have the opportunity to be working in zoo research. The Welfare department at Brookfield strives to use scientific approaches and research to find innovative ways to advance the welfare of the zoos animals, a noble goal indeed!

First off, moving to Chicago was an adventure! It's quite the bustling city, and during my time here I've got to do some really cool things: be in a city with a Stanley cup win, go to a Cubs game, go to the awesome museums here, go to the Lincoln Park Zoo, etc! I've really enjoyed getting to know another state and another place. Gotta love adventures! Also, I could be thankful enough for having a great place to stay while I'm here- shout out to the Rohls!

Okay, okay, so I guess I should talk about what you guys want to hear. Animals! The first day of our internship, Amanda Stilwell (recent Otterbein zoo major grad who is also interning with me) and I explored Brookfield. I immediately fell in love with the primate house in which it ACTUALLY RAINS everyday. Secondly, it's massive, so large that I looked around a 1/3 of it and just couldn't even imagine the amount of people it must take to clean the area. Regardless, it's very cool- and includes many species of primates, birds, and other creatures but highlights: a baby gibbon (aka me dying of cuteness overload- if you know me, you know how I much I absolutely love gibbons!), turacos (one of my favorite bird species) a baby orangutan, and an adorable baby Nora, who is a gorilla- and a very genetically important one at that. I often will stroll through this building on my way to my car after work. :)  It's been really fun getting to explore a new zoo- though admittedly, I could still get lost in Brookfield if I tried hard enough- it's laid out like a classic garden and thus very different than I am used to! 

So specifics on what I actually do everyday! Amanda and I were lucky enough to receive possibly the most adorable of all animals to study...the red panda!!! The red pandas at Brookfield are new to the collection, and were part of a new section called Wild Encounters that did not open until July 1st- so Amanda and I got to explore this area before it was open to the public. The red pandas are brother and sister, Wally and Beatrix, and they ADORABLE. I can't ever decide which one is cuter. Wally is much more regal in his appearance, but very handsome. Bee looks like she's a character out of a cartoon, and she's got a tuft of hair on her nose that makes it very easy to tell them apart. They are both just over a year old, and came from another AZA facility in Virginia. Their exhibit includes a massive computerized tree which helps to encourage natural foraging behaviors. See an awesome video about it here: Red Panda Tree!

The animal welfare department is interested in studying this project because despite the popularity of red pandas in zoos- very little is known about their behavior. We are looking to discover more about their behavior and what they typically spend their time doing, and what parts of their exhibit they utilize most often. To do this, Amanda and I use focal sampling with continuous recordings of event behaviors, and instantaneous recordings every minute of location and state. Amanda and I created our ethogram ourselves- and I think we both are proud of it! In the beginning of our internship, while we were testing reliability, (to insure we both score behaviors similarly and thus improves the strength of our research) Amanda and I watched practically every red panda video on youtube to do so. Many hours of adorable panda videos- it's a tough job but I guess someone has to do it... ;)  We spend Monday through Friday from 9-3 at the red panda exhibit, doing our behavior observations, switching off every hour and a half. On our off time, we work on the draft of the paper which will eventually include our data. So far, many of our days are filled with watching one of the cutest creatures ever- who can complain? 

Oh also, Amanda and I are officially legit (scroll down to interns): Research Team

Enjoy some photos from my adventures! 
My first pro sports game! What a cool stadium to experience- they won!

Beatrix eats (adorably, of course.)

Me and the baby Grevy's zebra. She was two days old here. We share a birthday. :)

I have decided the most majestic bird is officially the Harpy Eagle. It was insane. Brookfield has an awesome free bird show that has so many cool birds- and a lot of great conservation messages.

Also part of the bird show. I was lucky enough for Davidson the raven to come land on me twice and take some money back and forth, He was really cool, go corvids!

The river is quite beautiful as it runs through the city!

Buckingham Fountain!

The skyline! 

Lincoln Park Zoo- it was a smaller zoo, but I really enjoyed it- I was particularly impressed with their macaque exhibit, it's really pretty complex and interesting, and includes their own "hot spring" for the winter time.

Brookfield has some free range birds- guineas and peacocks- just look how adorable!

Pandas who nap together stay together.

Look at that face! Adorable!

Wally eats bamboo- he enjoys a challenge of trying to eat the stuff outside his exhibit- despite his multiple inside bamboo sources!

Using their tree!

Free ranging peacock! Took some getting used to their noises though.

View from under the umbrella: rain or shine, research goes on!

Thanks for reading!
Until next time,

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