Saturday, March 7, 2015

Hello From Down Under!

Name: Mara Eisenbarth
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Internship: Animal Care Intern, Perth Zoo
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Hello from the Land Down Under! My name is Mara Eisenbarth and I am a sophomore Zoo and Conservation Science major at Otterbein University.  This semester I have the amazing opportunity to be studying abroad in Perth, Australia along with an internship at the Perth, Zoo.  

Perth is the capital city of the state of Western Australia, and one of the most isolated cities in the world.  Western Australia is the largest state in Australia, and the second largest country sub-division in the's huge.  However, it is very sparsely populated by people for its size.  Western Australia is home, though, to many endemic species of plants and animals that can be seen in Perth but mainly outside of the city limits.  For example, I have not seen a kangaroo yet, but if I would travel just a little north outside of the city and its suburbs, I've been told they are everywhere.  

For most university students here in Australia, there are programs called work experience.  Generally, it's a week or two that you get to essentially shadow someone who is involved in the career you want to pursue and follow their every move for that period of time.  This is very different to the US version of internships, so I set up my internship to more resemble ours.  Essentially what I am doing, is getting a little taste of every part of the zoo for the four months that I am here.  I've just expanded their work experience to last four months.  Every Tuesday and Thursday I catch the 6:15 am bus to arrive at the zoo by 7 am.  The first section that I'm working in is the Australian Fauna section.  So every time I go for my internship, I spend the day with a different keeper in a different part of the Australia section.  Eventually I will be doing sections more than once, but for now I get to test everything out.  

While I'm with the keepers, they explain everything they are doing and why, answer all my questions, and have me help with tasks or involve me in other ways.  Some of the things I've done so far include holding quokkas (look them up, it'll make your day), feeding fairy penguins, putting my knowledge of operant conditioning to the test with cockatoos, hanging out with wallabies and echidnas, and just generally being around amazing marsupials in one of their few native habitats.  

While this internship is so different from the US, it's very interesting and helpful in the sense that I will be getting to see the Australia section, the Exotic section, and their Native Species Breeding program.  Every time I'm with a new keeper, I also get to ask them the questions that will help me get a job later in life.  I always ask what led them to having the job they do now, and how they got their foot in the door.  For anybody interested in keeping, they've told me, you need experience and connections.  After this internship is over, I will have worked with the majority of the staff at the zoo, and those connections are invaluable.  Experience in the zoo world is scarce and important all at once, and one experience is not more or less valuable than another.  The amount of dishes I've washed since I started my internship is unreal, but I can already tell how much more efficient I have become.  As I've come to really realize, efficiency is a key quality to have as a keeper if you want to get anything done during the day.  

With everything that I'm learning, I could put up a post each day that I go there, but I don't want to bore you with the details.  Every other week or so I'll try and post a summarized version of what I did and learned that week.  So, for the summary for the past two weeks I'll just list the animals that I've gotten to work with.  

  • Quokka
  • wallaby
  • skink (multiple kinds)
  •  bearded dragons 
  • snakes (multiple kinds)
  •  Axolotl 
  • radiated tortoises 
  • Red-tailed Black cockatoo
  • Major-Mitchell's cockatoo
  • short beaked echidna 
  • splendid tree frogs 
  • Australasian Shoveler
  • Black Swan
  • Black-necked Stork
  • Blue-Winged Stilt
  • Blue-billed Duck
  •  Glossy Ibis
  • Great Egret
  • Freckled Duck
  • Little Pied Cormorant
  • Pied Heron
  • Plumed Whistling Duck
  • Royal Spoonbill
  • Bilby
  • Boobook Owl
  • Chuditch
  • Dibbler
  • Ghost Bat
  • Feathertail Glider
  • Green Tree Frog
  • Long-nosed Potoroo
  • Northern Quoll
  • Owlet-nightjar
  • Red-tailed Phascogale
  • Spinifex Hopping-mouse
  • Squirrel Glider
  • Tawny Frogmouth
  • Water Rat
  • Western Ringtail Possum
  • Woylie
  • Western Blue-tongued Skink
  • Woma
  • Little Penguins
  • Australian Pelican
  • Eclectus Parrot
  • Purple Crowned Lorikeet
  • Western Ground Parrot
Phew...I think that's it so far.... here are some pics of these adorable creatures and my adventures so far :)

**Photos approved by Perth Zoo**