Saturday, June 18, 2016

Welcome to the Dallas Zoo

Name: Abigail Smith
Class Year: 2018
Hometown: Troy, OH
Internship: North Savannah/Registrar Intern
Location: Dallas Zoo

Dallas Bound
Hello all! I am a Zoo and Conservation Science major at Otterbein University and I am pre-vet as well. This summer I will complete a 10 week internship at the Dallas Zoo as a North Savannah/Registrar Intern! I am accompanied by another Otterbein student, Eliza Hanes, who is completing an internship in the Hospital at the Dallas Zoo. We are also very fortunate to be housed by Miss Myra who works in the Advancement Department at the Zoo. 

Eliza (left), Myra (middle), Myself (right)

It is the end of my second week here in Dallas and I am finally getting accustomed to the swing of things.  I work Monday-Friday 7 A.M to 4 P.M. Every day I wake up at 5 A.M. to get ready and eat a huge breakfast because I need the energy. The day starts out with a morning meeting in the North Savannah section. This is when the keepers decide what animals are going out on exhibit and what the goals of the day are. Then I normally accompany a keeper or two out to the various exhibits to clean up from the animals the day before and prep them for today. This includes scooping poop, checking the automatic water dispensers, pulling weeds, filling in huge hoof prints, and putting fresh food out. We also set up the feeding platform where guests can feed giraffes lettuce, carrots, etc. This includes bringing up the food to be dispensed and affixing browse to the platform as a reward for the giraffes when they come out on exhibit. After all is prepped, we shift the designated animals out onto exhibit. 
First Day
Cleaning the Holding Yards

Shifting animals can be a complicated process involving many people with specific roles. Someone to open the doors/gates in the barn, another to open the gate to the exhibit, and many others to station animals at their posts. Stationing an animal is calling an animal(s) to a designated location in the exhibit and giving them a reward for doing so. This is important because we do not want the animals to attempt to go back inside before the gates get closed. The North Savannah has giraffe, zebra, ostrich, lechwe, greater kudu, and guinea fowl. Many of these are featured on any given day in a mixed species exhibit. So far I have been trained to station giraffes. I stand on a platform above the exhibit and my job is to call them over and reward them with giraffe crackers until all animals are on exhibit and the gates have closed. I have also observed the stationing of the zebra, ostrich, and greater kudu. This whole process can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour.

After the animals have been shifted we go to cleaning the holding yards and the barns. We have two barns: "hoofstock" and "giraffe." So far I have been trained in the giraffe barn. We spend about two hours each day cleaning, feeding, and putting up enrichment. A lot of the enrichment we have are logs and browse attached to the walls for chewing. We also hang various items up for them to investigate such as tubes filled with lettuce, a pipe with dangling spoons, a christmas tree, etc.

Browse Collection
That concludes the morning activities. After lunch is the registrar portion of the internship. I was trained on how to operate ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System) and input information into the system. My supervisor has assigned me a project where I sort through necropsy files dating back all the way from 1995 to the early 60's. My job is to input the diagnosis from the final histopathology report for all the records so it is easily accessible from the database. Unfortunately my supervisor had to take leave almost as soon as I arrived, but fortunately there were a lot of other sections needing my help! Two days a week I monitor the cameras on the new baby elephant and record observations on him for their department. This is one of the best ways I could imagine spending an afternoon! For another two days a week I work on my records project at the hospital where I have a stand-in supervisor to answer any questions I may have. And for one day a week I help the elephant department again, but not monitoring baby cams. With all the new elephants they recently rescued from Swaziland, the demand for browse is larger than ever. So every Friday I go out with a keeper to collect browse from the surrounding neighborhoods. Each week the city collects brush/trees/large items from different sections of the city, depending on the schedule. We go out in a large truck and pick up browse-able items for the many elephants. It has been really fun learning all the different types of browse they have in Texas and how to identify them all!

 One of my favorite things about this summer is that I am doing something different every day. At the end of my first week I was fortunate enough to watch and be of help in a veterinary procedure where we shifted an animal from one section of the zoo to another. I was responsible for helping carry the animal to the van and then into its new home. I was also able to observe the routine checkup!

Myself and Chris
I am very fortunate to be trained by, in my opinion, some of the best keepers in the world. Everyone I have met has been very helpful in showing me the ropes and answering my many questions. We all work together to give the best care we can for all the species in the North Savannah and have a great time doing it! One keeper specifically, Chris (pictured right) has given me great advice on all things from my poop scooping technique to tips on achieving my greatest goals.

Overall I am having a wonderful time in Dallas and I cannot wait to see what else it has in store for me! Look for more posts from me in a few weeks!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

More China Fun!

Name: Kelly Jackson
Year: Senior, Class of 2017
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Internship: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding- Animal Behavior Research

            Taryn and I have been enjoying our time in China and have had new adventures each day! Last week Sunday we went out for breakfast, drank boba tea and went to the panda post to send postcards back to our friends and families at the Panda Post. Eldora had taken Macie and I there last year, and all of the workers had spoken English very well while we were there. Afterwards we came back to the school to do laundry. It was very nice out so I decided to read one of the books I brought outside while my laundry dried in the sun. Our neighbors saw me and talked to me for a bit! They are very nice people. :)
            We started off last week by watching the pandas (of course). They had brought the pandas in because it was too hot for them outside. Once they brought them in, one of the keepers, Mei Mei, asked us if we would like some watermelon. So we took a break from the pandas and ate the delicious fruit with them! In the afternoon we also had the opportunity to see them put the pandas back outside from the back area (it had cooled off a bit). It definitely helped a lot when trying to figure out who was who!
            The following days at the panda base were some of the most exciting ones thus far. On Tuesday, Ju and I decided to walk around the panda base during lunch while Taryn watched Game of Thrones. While this is my second time being at the panda base, I still haven’t explored the whole area because it is very huge. As Ju and I were wandering around the panda base, we ran into an enclosure that had a familiar sign…it was the cubs from last year! Finally found them! All five of them were inside and SO BIG! It is crazy to me just how big they get in such a little time. Unfortunately, I could not tell who all of them were, except Shuang Hao. :P Ju and I also walked to Bird Lake, and took lots of pictures of all the beautiful birds.
            On Wednesday, Taryn and I had the chance to help out with some enrichment! A lady had donated enrichment items to the panda base and James had asked if we could give it to the cubs. The husbandry department gave us the okay and off we went! Pandapia, the official photographing company of the panda base, decided they wanted some video footage of the pandas playing with the handy dandy enrichment item, otherwise known as “the amazing graze” (it is for horses!). Taryn recorded video and I used my camera to take some great pictures! The cubs absolutely loved it. :P

            The rest of the week we actually had off due to the Dragon Boat Festival Holiday. On Thursday I decided to go ahead and explore the east side of the campus. I ended up walking to a place called the Jiulidi Site. According to the writing (it was in English), the area was built in order to protect Chengdu from floods. However, most of the area had been destroyed and now it is much smaller. I also found a pet store too that had puppies and kittens for sale! Later on in the day Taryn and I went to the art market. My favorite part of the market is the beautiful paintings artists create. The extensive detail that is put into each piece is so precise; you can tell they put so much effort into it. We then met Ju later for dinner at the Shangri-La. :)
            The next day we spent the whole day with Ju. We went to a sandwich place (recommended by James) for lunch which was SO GOOD and got boba (yum!). We headed on over to the Sichuan Art Museum for a good majority of the day. Almost all of the signage at the art museum was translated into English, so we could read a lot of the descriptions of the pieces. I really enjoyed reading the signs, and learned a lot about the history of the sculpture, painting, or object being displayed. One of the several I personally enjoyed was the Tea contrast. When designing certain pottery items, the sculptors took into account the tea that would be poured into them. The color and the uniformity of the tea, as well as whether or not the foam disappeared, determined who would win “the game.” I’m not sure what “the game” is, but it sounds mysterious! :P After the museum, we went swing dancing with Ju again! I had the chance to dance with several people this time, and felt a whole lot more confident in my swing skills!
            On Saturday Taryn and I hung out with our new friends Andrew and Melody! We had met Andrew on the campus one day and she wanted to spend the day playing with us. :) And what better place to go on your day off then the panda base? ;P Andrew had never been there before and we wanted to show her around, and give her the full panda experience! She was so happy watching the pandas, even though most of them were sleeping by the time we got there. Melody and Andrew even got us selfie sticks so we could take pictures of the pandas later on! We went to lunch next and ate delicious hot pot! The two of them had to go and so we said farewell. I decided to go to the track and dance Zumba with the ladies there! They were so much fun, but it was definitely a workout! :P
            Sunday we went back to the panda base, where we were thrown for a loop. The keepers had put some of the cubs with the moms! While it was exciting we were not sure what to do, and whether or not this would affect our data. After discussing it, we determined that it would still be okay to watch the cubs with the moms. It will be exciting to not only be able to watch the cubs, but to also watch the adult pandas a bit too, and see how the cubs interact with their moms. :)
Taryn and I have started collecting our actual data this week, which is also awesome! :) We’ve talked with James about entering data into excel and what in theory our results should look like to support our hypothesis. Each day we still continue to watch the cubs, and each day they do something crazy and/or cute! :) Hopefully, they will continue to be highly active so we can get a ton of social interactions between them!
Even with watching the pandas every single day, one of the highlights of the trip would have to be when I walked to the mall the other day. I decided to explore the road on the opposite side of the mall, and see if there were any cool new food places there Taryn and I could try. There was not a lot of restaurants, and mainly clothing stores so I ventured back to the mall. I was curious to see the roof of the mall, and made my way up to the top. There was a quaint little tea shop surrounded by a garden of greens and various crops. I continued to walk till I found myself alone, sitting on a marble ledge just looking out into the horizon watching the sun. It was getting dark, and I figured I might as well stay and watch the sunset. It was absolutely breathtaking. I had never seen a sunset in the city before, let alone in China. You could barely hear the cars and the busy street down below; the only sounds were the planes flying overhead and above you. Yes, I love so many things about Chengdu. From the food to the people, China will always have a place in my heart. But in reality, it’s the little moments like this that make me realize why I really truly enjoy being here. It makes me sad that almost half of our time is gone here. :( I am looking forward to what the rest of the trips brings for Taryn and I! :)

P.S. James also surprised me by bringing the best mangos in the world to lunch yesterday. Needless to say, Kelly’s Belly was VERY happy. :)


Monday, June 13, 2016

Life in the desert

Mara Eisenbarth
Elephant Intern
Reid Park Zoo, Tucson Arizona

Hello from the wild west! 

This blog post is coming to you from the super hot, incredibly beautiful Sonoran Desert.  Tucson is such a change from the rainy, muddy spring in Pittsburgh...but i'm definitely not complaining! It's only been three weeks, and i'm as tan as I usually am at the end of the summer.  

But, this is supposed to be about my internship, and not how much vitamin D i'm getting, huh.  

I arrived in Tucson on a Sunday, three weeks ago, and started my internship with the elephant team on Tuesday.  My supervisor and I are working on a project together, so i'm on her schedule which means I work eight hours a day Tuesday through Saturday (more on the project later). 

The heat is definitely something that took some getting used to, especially working out in it 40 hours a week.  At first I was wearing shorts and my volunteer t-shirt, but soon I switched over to pants and pull-on sleeves, for a variety of reasons.  The elephant team work really hard to feed their elephants only the best, and to them that means providing tree branches to fulfill a majority of their diet.  To do this, they have asked tree trimming companies around the area to consider dropping off loads of certain types of trees to us instead of throwing them away.  When we get a load dropped off, it's unofficially my job (and anyone who isn't busy) to sort through the pile and trim the branches down to a manageable size as well as make sure there isn't anything in the pile that we can't feed out to the elephants.  Doing that with exposed legs and arms resulted in lots of scratches...until I realized pants and sleeves were really good ideas! 

In order to get all the work done around the elephant barn and yards, the team relies on volunteers every day.  Each day they have one or two volunteers that commit to helping that day every week.  As soon as I arrived, I worked alongside the volunteers and learned the ropes from them, and the keepers.  In the morning we clean the yards, scooping up poop, cleaning up leftover hay, and collecting all of the used tree branches.  When that's finished we help them unload the carts into the compost dumpster and then get ready to clean the barn.  There are three stalls, and three outdoor paddocks, as well as the two yards that the public can see.  After about day 2, Sue (my supervisor) asked me to make a power point outlining instructions for everything I had learned so far (which was a TON).  She wanted new volunteers to be able to go through this power point as training before they even started helping.  This way, it wouldn't all be on the keepers to make sure they tell the volunteers everything they need to know and be aware of.  It was really cool, after only a week, to be able to compile everything I learned into a format that would teach another person how to do the job I just learned.  They used it soon after to train a new volunteer, and the keepers said they loved it! Success! 

Most, if not all, of the cleaning is done in the morning so the afternoons are free for training and other things that need done.  To keep the elephants healthy in the over 100 degree heat, they usually try to get them in the pool in the afternoon, which has been pretty fun to watch!  Watching that from the public area has also been helpful in doing one of my favorite things: interacting with the public.  I love it all, the good comments and the bad.  It's really fun when people are interested in learning more about the animals I am dedicating my life to taking care of, but it's cool to educate those who aren't so supportive of zoos, too.     

Overall, my first few weeks have been very exciting and full of learning.  I'll introduce the elephants next post, and hopefully more about my new, exciting stay tuned! 

Left to right: Sundzu, Nandi, Semba (mom with 2 out of 3 kids)