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)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

We Will Miss You Chengdu!

Name: Taryn Chudo
Year: Junior, Class of 2018
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Internship: Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding, Animal Research

Wow! I can’t believe that we aren’t in Chengdu anymore. These last two weeks went by so fast, especially since Ju wasn’t with us for most of it. A lot of the time that we had left was spent collecting data on the cubs. Combined, we gathered over 100 hours on the cubs! It doesn’t seem like we were there long enough to get that much! During our lunch break and after work each night, we would spend a decent chunk of time entering in the day’s data, but we made sure that we also filled the last of our time with tons of fun activities and lots of good food!

It rained quite a bit, but we didn’t let that stop us. We had lots of restaurants to eat at and not enough time to do so! We had dumplings a couple more times and we made sure to have hot pot as many times as possible. We also were missing Ju while she was in Thailand, so we made sure to eat there one more time.
Not only did we have lots of places to eat, but we also had a lot of sightseeing and souvenir shopping to do! One Friday night, we went to the Sichuan Opera. It was amazing, my favorite parts were the hand shadow performance and this skit about an older married couple. Although we had no clue what the performers were saying, we were still able to understand it well enough. The next day we went to the art market for some shopping. We got lots of folding fans and some small sculptures. We then walked around Chunxi road, which is lined with all kinds of shops and shopping centers. 

That following Sunday, we traveled to Sanxingdui, which is an archeological site similar to Jinsha, which we had visited a few weeks prior. Sanxingdui exhibited many artifacts of the ancient Shu people, including a sacrificial site, and giant masks with large ears and protruding eyes. These two features are thought to be representative of their god who can hear and see everything.

During our second to last week, James took us into the red panda enclosure to observe and even help him with training. The enclosure that we went entered had two males and one female, Xiao Bai. James worked with one of the males in order to make catching and transporting him easier. We then worked with Xiao Bai on ultrasound and blood draw training. She did great and it certainly was an experience of a lifetime.

Our last week was definitely interesting. On Monday, we had to take the day off to meet with University staff to figure out all of our move out details. After that was figured out, we went to Jinli for more shopping and tasty street food. As we were walking around, Kelly found a stand that sold various types of insects for food. She decided to try the scorpion!

On Tuesday we were back at the Panda Base. It was raining and we had taken the later morning bus, so we hung out in the lab and worked on entering and organizing our data. That night we went and had our favorite stick style hot pot! On Wednesday, we collected our last sessions of data. That night we went to wide and narrow alleys. It was weird to think that these were the last times that we were going to be there. Thursday was James’ birthday and our last day at the panda base. In the morning, we helped with red panda training and then in the afternoon, we observed giant panda training. We then took James out to the Thai restaurant for dinner. On Friday we souvenir shopped and then met Ju in the evening when she landed. She spent Friday night in Chengdu before leaving for the States the next morning. Before we met her, James took us to an archery place near his apartment. We had a great time and Kelly channeled Katniss Everdeen for most of the time. We all went to dinner that night and had all kinds of local Sichuan food.

On Saturday we met with Eldora and several of her friends. They taught us how to make dumplings and they made all kinds of food. While we cooked and ate we watched Forrest Gump! 

After that we went and had dinner with Yang, one of our friends from the Panda Base. He took us to a new kind of hot pot which was delicious. He also took us to try some local snacks. Kelly and I tried pig nose, and Kelly was adventurous enough to try the rabbit head, a Chengdu specialty!

Sunday was our last day. We went to have our favorite hot pot one last time and then traveled to Chunxi road again and walked all throughout the center of Chengdu. We then ended up at Wenshu Monastery and then had snow ice before heading back to the room to pack. The next morning, we started our long journey home. 

We had a great time and we both want to be back in Chengdu so badly. We will miss the panda cubs that we have come to know and love and we will miss everyone that we got the pleasure to work with. As I am writing this, I am making hot pot, dumplings, and bing fen (a sweet gelatin dessert) in an attempt to share Chengdu food with my family. Hopefully, we will both be able to travel back to the beautiful city of Chengdu and visit our pandas in the future!

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!!