Saturday, August 1, 2015

American Burying Beetle Release

Name: Courtney Dover
Class Year: 2018
Hometown: Springfield, Ohio
Internship: The Wilds Scholar Internship
Location: Cumberland, Ohio

Hello everyone! When I came to the Wilds I was expecting to work mostly with the hellbenders, but over the last 10 weeks I have learned so many new things about several different species. For example, all of the scholar interns were welcomed to assist with an American Burying Beetle Release.

The American Burying Beetle was the first insect species to be listed as a federal endangered species. It is native to Ohio, and it is now critically endangered. It is a species of carrion beetle that will bury carrion and use it to reproduce. The decline of this species is mostly due to habitat loss.

Fortunately, conservation centers like The Wilds are working to bring back this beetle. The Wilds breeds the beetles and has a mass release once a year. I was lucky enough to be invited to assist.

We started by digging 16 holes in three separate areas for a total of 48 holes.

 We then put a frozen rat into each hole. Here I am adding a rat to this hole.

Next, we added to beetles into each hole: a male and a female. They were transported over in the little boxes you can see on the ground. They are distinguishable by an orange spot on their foreheads that is different shapes depending on the sex of the beetle.

Then we covered the holes back up with dirt. We put two layers of wire over the lines of holes to prevent other scavengers from coming in and taking the rats away from the beetles.

This is what the finished product looked like. We left the beetles like this and in a couple weeks will come back to check for larva.

As we were in the process of releasing beetles, we had to watch where we were stepping. Sometimes the beetles decided they did not want to stay in the nice hole we had made them and they dug back up to the surface. All our work would be worthless if we had accidentally stepped on a critically endangered beetle!

Monday, July 27, 2015


Name: Rachel Williams
Class Year: 2017
Hometown: Rochester Hills, MI
Internship: Animal Care Intern (Mammal Department), the Detroit Zoo
Location: Detroit, MI

Honestly, I had no idea what the word "Pampas" meant until I saw it on my rotation schedule and googled it. Turns out the pampas are an area of plains in South America, and at the zoo, this term refers to the exhibit containing guanacos, rheas, southern screamers, fallow deer (not South American but they don't have their own exhibit), and peccaries. Along with these animals, the pampas routine as a whole also includes the bison yard and brand new wolf habitat. 
I was really excited to start this rotation because of the opportunity to work with the wolves. They've always been one of my favorite animals, and now are the zoo's latest addition. Their habitat is two acres and just opened to the public in early June. The residents are two gray wolves; Wazi, a 7 year-old female, and Kaska, a 5 year-old male. The pair came from the Minnesota zoo and are a breeding pair, but have yet to successfully have pups. Its not hard at all to tell the two apart, both by looks and by behavior. Wazi is all white and very interested in interacting with humans, while Kaska is definitely more timid and likes to watch from a distance. We worked with him a lot on coming into the small holding yard in the back of the exhibit, and by the end of my four weeks there, we saw a huge improvement. We were able to get him to willingly come into the yard and building to explore with us standing there, whereas in the beginning he refused to even come close to the building if he heard or saw us. Wazi, on the other hand, would come running and whimpering as soon as she heard the keepers! Every morning, we would apply Swat to her ears to keep the flies away, and to keep her happy while doing this, I would scratch her through the fence with a stick. She loved it and would whimper and cry, and then out of nowhere go silent for a few seconds, and suddenly attack the stick. After a couple seconds of aggression, she would let go of the stick and resume begging for attention. She's adorable, but very bipolar!

This routine also made me realize a new species to add to my list of favorite animals; the peccary. I had no idea what they were until I started working in the pampas building, but the zoo has two Collared Peccaries, and they are the cutest little pigs! They don't go out on exhibit anymore, due to them being bullies towards the guanacos, but they have a couple stalls in the building and access to three small fenced yards. Since they aren't allowed out in the big yard, they receive four different enrichment items everyday, a task I was put in charge of and which was really fun! I loved giving them toys smeared with peanut butter; they would rub it all over their faces and get it stuck in their hair. Since they aren't out on exhibit, I can't post any pictures of them, but here is one from the internet:

Another awesome experience that I really enjoyed was meeting the ring-tailed and black-and-white ruffed lemurs. These cute little guys weren't part of our routine, but the keeper I was working with wanted to make sure I got to experience all parts of the zoo, and this was definitely a fun break from cleaning stalls and yards! Lemurs are one of the few animals that keepers can go in with, so I got to go in the public yard and feed them. They were extremely curious (or maybe just hungry) and climbed all over me, licked my hands, and tried to grab my phone! It was a blast :)

My Unbelizable Adventure Part 2: The intern and the eagle

Name: Hannah Tucky
Class: 2017, Junior
Hometown: Delaware, Ohio
Internship: Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center
Location: Mile 29 Western Hwy, Belize

Jaguarundi cub (Manny)
      Hello everyone who took the time to read this post! I'm finally updating you guys about the second and third week of my internship at the Belize Zoo in the beautiful country of Belize. For those of you who have not yet read my first post, my first week's adventures included beginning working with mammals like tapirs, howler monkeys, as well as some pretty unique birds including scarlet macaws. During my first week, the zoo also gained a new addition in the form of a jaguarundi cub who was later named (with my help!) Manny. I soon became one of the main "foster mothers" for little Manny. This included taking weights, preparing and weighing food every two hours, and getting him accustomed to interacting with people. 

Harpy Eagle underside of foot
During my time at the zoo these weeks my skills that I learned from the Ohio Wildlife Center ended up helping me enormously and let me have some pretty awesome interactions! For example, at the Belize zoo, there are two harpy eagles. Harpy eagles are one of the largest eagles in the world and have been reported carrying off up to 30 lbs of prey such as small goats and monkeys. Their talons alone are between 3 and 4 inches long and the females can be about the same height as a small child. One of the harpy eagles at the zoo, DaQueen was believed to have developed feet issues, possibly bumble foot. Because I had mentioned my hands on work with raptors at the OWC, Gliselle, the animal management staff supervisor, only animal contact area female, and Purdue wildlife ecology graduate, had asked if I would help in the procedures. For these, DaQueen (the harpy eagle) was first caught. Next, we flushed out the cracks in her feet using saline solution in a 60 ml syringe and applied a medical gel to them, followed by wrapping them back up with gauze and tape. The whole procedure only took about 10 minutes and the eagle stayed incredibly calm throughout the whole time she was caught and cared for. 

 If that wasn't a great enough experience to help with every few days, I got an even cooler one to add! One of the days while Gliselle was off, the keepers noticed the bandages falling off and asked if I would supervise and do the bandages myself! Although I felt a little unsure that I have any real help to give, I knew I had watched it been done many times. Catching the eagle, cleaning out the cracks, and applying the bandages and gauze ended up going extremely well. By the end of the third week there, the eagle's feet issues were found by a visiting vet not to be bumble foot yet, but just from the current perching in the yard. The lesions were already beginning to heal and DaQueen required less intervention by zoo staff.
Wrapping foot with gauze and tape
Applying ointment on the eagle's foot

As a result, of more OWC experience (Our last project for the semester was building perches for the raptors), I helped supervise the addition to new perching in the eagle enclosure. Because perching in some of the other bird enclosures was also seen as a possibility for concern, I also helped in adding new perches to the scarlet macaws, ornate hawk eagles, and toucans. 

By the end of this third week in Belize I had been in the country for a full 5 weeks and only had one week to go. I am still incredibly glad that I had all the opportunities that I had so far. I am also very excited that I was able to directly apply what I have learned in class to situations 1600 miles away in a zoo and country so different than our own.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"And at last I see the light"

Name: Kelly Jackson

Class/Year: Class of 2017, Junior
Hometown: Waterford, Wisconsin
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Internship: Animal Behavior Research
            Our data collection has been very interesting this past week! The keepers put two of the cubs in with the mom, both inside and outside. In the wild, the mother may give birth to two cubs, but will give her care and attention to only one. This is one of the many reasons the giant panda is an endangered animal.  Therefore, I was very intrigued to see how the mother interacted with the two cubs. From what I noticed, she did not sway her attention specifically to one of the two cubs. In fact she would jump up and bite one of pandas, and then the next second come barreling across the enclosure and knock over the other panda! When we look at the data, maybe we will be able to detect a difference.
            Speaking of data, Macie and I have been busy compiling our final sheets. We have been making separate sheets for each panda, but in order to analyze it, we need to put all panda data, both Macie’s and mine into one document. James has told us we will be using SPSS to look at our data. He told us it is what most researchers and scientific papers use when they analyze their data. Essentially, it is like Microsoft Excel, and it with various programs you can look at different aspects. I’ve downloaded a couple sample books (the actual ones are almost $100!) to get a sense of how to use it, and it doesn’t appear too hard to master!
            In addition to SPSS, James’ friend, Jake, also introduced Macie and I to another statistics program, called R. He told us if you can learn R, you will definitely be a high candidate for graduate school. With R, you can design and apply your own programs. If you wanted to look at hormonal levels in correlation with temperature and altitude, you enter in a specific code, and the program will do the rest. However, it is very difficult to use, because you personally have to figure out your own codes and enter them in, and if you don’t know how to code, you’re out of luck. Out of curiosity, I downloaded R to my computer (yes, it is free from the internet) and it is just a blank screen with a box where you input your codes. Basically, I was completely lost on what to do after I downloaded it. James told us R is one, if not the, hardest statistical model to use, and with our project, we will not be using it. Phew! However, I am interested in figuring out R. Like my softball coach always says, “Love the challenge!” ;)
            On Tuesday, Macie and I got to watch a talk by the one and only David Kersey, from Western University. He talked about renal endocrinology and how it relates to the giant panda.  He spoke in English, while another veterinarian and James’ friend, Luo Li, translated for him. His talk had two parts, first about the renin-angiotensin system. During this he told us about how the kidney works dealing with renin and angiotensinogen. Essentially what happens is there are renin and angiotensinogen work together within the kidney, create different hormones, and keep sodium, water reabsorption, as well as blood pressure in check. When the animals has a constant supply of water, it can achieve this balance, and its’ kidneys should function properly. However, it the animal is stressed or does not have proper nutrition, it can lead to kidney problems. A high amount of stress causes low blood pressure, which makes it harder for the panda to function since their glucocorticoids (in this case, cortisol) would not be expressed. Also, if the animal does not reabsorb water, it will lead to an increase in sodium. High amounts of sodium in the blood lead to dehydration, which we all know is not good for any creature. The second part dealt with calcium homeostasis. It is vital for the panda to have calcium homeostasis, because otherwise it can lead to kidney problems. When the blood calcium in the panda is low, hormones will be released, which will convert Vitamin D from its’ inactive form to active. Calcium absorption will then occur, which will lead to an increase in blood calcium, and therefore homeostasis will occur again. However, if not enough Vitamin D is received, it will unable to be converted from inactive to active. In general pandas are prone to having kidney problems, due to their interesting diets. One of the panda workers was talking to David Kersey about how they are in the process of finding various nutrition options for the pandas, but it has been difficult due to the panda’s biology, so his talk to them was helpful in taking the next step. The talk went on for about an hour or so, and was very specific and highly informational. A lot of contextual vocabulary was used, but the graphics were great to have as a guide! I thoroughly enjoyed the talk, and ended up looking up more information about all the various parts of endocrinology later on. Needless to say, I think I’ll stick with the behavioral aspect. :P
            Later that night we went out with everyone to dinner for James’ birthday! It was a restaurant called the Lazy Pug. The food was great, and so was the tiramisu (yum)! Macie and I made James a nice card with cool pictures of cows that we drew, since that was one of the few things we knew how to draw. We also got him a book, and quite possibly the weirdest gift I have ever given anyone. We all talked and ate; it was a nice night out! :)
            The rest of the week went by super quickly, watching the cubs, collecting red panda poop, and entering in data. Before we knew it, it was Friday. Macie and I decided to go back to Jinli Street to get our Chinese teacher, Eldora, a present before our last lesson. We had a man engrave the symbol of “friendship” into a little bead. The bead went on a red string, which Eldora can now hang in her room as a reminder of us. :) After we got Eldora her present, Macie and I ate at the Tibetan restaurant just outside of Jinli. It was the best meal Macie and I have ordered by ourselves thus far. We had a yak meat and noodle soup, buttered crumpets, and delicious tea! 
            The next day at our Chinese lesson we learned a lot of new animals! From gorilla to dolphin to kangaroo, we covered just about every animal at the Columbus zoo. In addition, Eldora told us about the holidays and traditions they have here in China. Instead of celebrating one Valentine’s Day, they actually celebrate it twice, once in February and again in July. They also have the Spring and Autumn Festival, where decorations are hung everywhere, families gather, and celebrate with fireworks and fun! Also, we told Eldora about some of the holidays we celebrate in America. As we talked about our traditions and drank some delicious Chinese tea Eldora gave us, time flew by, and before we knew it our lesson was over. We treated Eldora to lunch and gave her our gift of the decoration, some chocolates, colored animal drawings, and a panda ring! She really enjoyed her gift. Eventually we said goodbye, and we wished Eldora safe travels as she headed out for her own adventure around China with her boyfriend. I am really going to miss Eldora. She is an amazing teacher, and a great friend. Thankfully we have each other on WeChat, and I will definitely be staying in touch with her! I hope I can return to China again soon, and I can visit her in her hometown. :)
      The past few days have truly been an eye opening experience for me, however there is one I will never forget. Walking around Jinli Street at night was one of the most indescribable things I have ever experience. There were so many lights and lanterns, along with soothing music playing in the background. It was exactly what I imagined China to be like, and yet it was so much more. If you have ever seen Tangled, I felt like Rapunzel in the movie when she sees the floating lanterns for the first time, not from her room. It was then I realized how little time Macie and I have left here in Chengdu. We have only two more weeks here at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. :( I am truly going to miss watching all of the little cubs, as well as the people we have gotten to work with. We have done so much here, yet I feel as though we have a lot left to explore! :)

Selfie with Zhenduo :P

Qi Qiao :)

The various birds of China: two female peacocks, male peacock on the left, and an egret on the right!

The floating lanterns of Jinli Street :)

Amazing Tibetan food Macie and I ordered all by ourselves! :D