Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Name: Molly Kukawka
Year: Junior Class of 2018
Hometown: St.Clair, MI
Internship: Animal Behavior/Arctic Intern
Location: Toledo Zoo, OH

Greetings from exotic Ohio! Nine weeks have gone by in quite a blur. Amber, Nathan and I have an apartment in Bowling Green, which makes it about a 20-minute commute to Toledo. We are all getting living routines and cooking nights in order. Turns out even the simplest meals like grilled cheese can be difficult so I think they all dread my cooking nights.
I am part of a group of 5 interns that each participate in two departments. We all are Animal Behavior interns and we also aid in one other department. I myself intern in the Arctic (we’re cooler than cool, we’re ice cold!!) and I spend the majority of my time there. The Arctic has 4 grey seals, 2 harbor seals, 4 polar bears, 3 cheetahs, and 3 grey wolves. My main job is help maintain enrichment for all of them. (For the polar bears that is 4 times a day!) I organize the week’s schedule into calendars and I am in charge of maintaining it and ordering supplies for the next week. This involves a lot of ice, fish, and peanut butter. Additionally, on Mondays I help some of the Zoo Educators (ZooEds) with polar bear enrichment talks. Keepers toss enrichment to the bears and visitors see and get to hear the background thought process and other interesting enrichment facts.
I also assist in seal training twice a day. I am working with one of the harbor seals, Chloe, and sometimes with one of the grey seals, Pattie. I am helping with basic cues and behaviors. The seals are trained for body and mouth exams, practice blood draws, and other potential medical procedure techniques.  

Another bonus experience is helping continue a 15-year activity budget study of the polar bears. We use an ethogram with about 15 different behaviors and we observe the bears for three 10 minute sessions a day. This paired with enrichment evaluations helps me see how effective my enrichment is and how often/what times to give it out at. Ultimately this internship holds the best of both the keeper and behavior worlds. Can’t wait to see what happens next. 

Crystal and her cub Hope

Crystal and Hope

Me with some of the keepers I work with. (This picture is a keeper hehe)

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