Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Welcome to Toledo!

Name: Amber Wuersig
Class/Year: Class of 2018, Junior
Hometown: Port Clinton, Ohio
Location: Toledo Zoo, Toledo Ohio
Internship: Animal Behavior / Ambassador Animal Intern

What a summer this has already been! A few weeks ago Molly, Nathan and I moved into our apartment in Bowling Green. It didn’t take much time at all for the three of us to get accustomed to living with each other and work out our daily routines. Luckily, we are staying less than a half hour away from the zoo, which makes the morning commute through construction a little more tolerable. We have even discovered a couple of favorite spots to stop for ice cream on the way home!
My first few weeks at Toledo Zoo have passed in the blink of an eye. I have the privilege of splitting my time between two departments; Animal Behavior and Ambassador Animals. I spend my mornings with the Ambassador Animal department, assisting keepers with husbandry and any odds and ends tasks they ask of me. Their department has a collection of about 140 animals who certainly keep everyone on their toes. So far I have been trying my best to get to know the personalities of as many animals as I can which has been quite the challenge!
I work closely with keepers and other Ambassador Animal interns and fortunately for us, we all seem to enjoy each other’s company. We are finally starting to get into a morning routine. As interns, our main responsibility in the morning is to assist the keepers with the husbandry in three areas; the goat and pig barn, the Education Animal Center and an area called Nature’s Neighborhood. We try to rotate who is working in each area as best as we can so that everyone gets an equal opportunity to learn.
After this is all done, it is usually time for me to head over to the Animal Behavior Department. My duty here is to coordinate enrichment for ambassador animals. To do this, I make a calendar of enrichment which I will make and deliver to the ambassador animal department for the keepers to give out. I primarily focus on four species (pigs, goats, groundhog and black vulture) but occasionally will make enrichment for other species. I will also be evaluating the enrichment that I have made.
The behavior department is a very small department and we work in close quarters of one another which has allowed all of us interns to get to know one another pretty well. Since we all work in the same area, I get to see what some of the animals in other departments are receiving for enrichment which is really cool.
In addition to making enrichment, all of us behavior interns have a weekly discussion with the department staff where we get to learn some pretty neat things about animal behavior. Recently, the topic of our discussions have been training. We specifically have been focusing on positive/negative reinforcement. We even attempted to train one another using reinforcement which was a really neat exercise (I trained Molly to jump in the air with her hands up ).
I am looking forward to the rest of my summer here in Toledo, it has already been a fabulous experience!

P.S. This is me at Lucas the elephant’s 5th Birthday ready to teach the world about his enrichment!!

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