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Category — Education

Zoo Academy is Life-changing

Guest blogger: Zoo Academy senior, Dominick Stowers

Hello, my name is Dominick and I am one of the most nonchalant seniors of this year. The reason I came to the Zoo Academy is it sounded like a really amazing experience that will take you far towards being the most renowned zoo keeper or director of a zoo. I came to better my education and I also have always had a real passion for animals of all sorts.

Although I have a passion for animals, I was not always allowed to explore that passion. There was always someone in my family that had a phobia of some kind of animal. My dad had a phobia of snakes and birds of all kinds. My mom and my two sisters and my little brother all have a phobia of insects and of any animal that they knew nothing about. For me, I am open to learning and handling any animal from insects to mammals to reptiles and birds. I just enjoy being around animals and the Zoo Academy gives me that chance to explore my passion.

Here I am handling a ball python

Here I am handling a ball python

The Zoo Academy is not just a high school or a place for work and no fun; that would be short selling the Zoo Academy. This program will allow a person to get their high school diploma and give them the chance to obtain experience in the field of animal care, nutrition and health. The students of this program are able to care for exotic animals that normally they could only see in television or in a movie and here at the Zoo Academy the students provide their services to help the zookeepers take great care of the animals from bathing to feeding. There is no other Zoo in the country that has a full time high school located on their premises, which makes the Cincinnati Zoo so fantastic and it is just an awesome opportunity to learn about rare and endangered animals.

Having the opportunity to work with these animals and these people is life changing. Once you have this experience, you will never look at life the same. The way that I use to view life and how I view life now is totally different. I did not know that life could be so peaceful inside a zoo with all those smells and noises. The zoo is so much more than just 70 acres of noisy and smelly animals; it is a place of peace and harmony which will change a person’s life if given the chance.

December 12, 2014   2 Comments

Animal Care Internship Program

So you want to be a zookeeper.

Fall 2014 interns hanging out with Tommy the cheetah.

Fall 2014 interns hanging out with Tommy the cheetah.

Have you always wanted to work with animals?  Do you have a passion for conservation?  If the answers are yes, then you are well on your way.  As with many careers these days, job-seeking in the zoo world has become very competitive.  It is sometimes particularly hard to get experience working with animals.  In addition, many positions require a bachelor’s degree in Zoology, Biology, or a related field of study.  The best way to get experience is to apply for an internship with animals.

The Cincinnati Zoo has recently re-vamped our animal care internship program.  The traditional internship has been reinvented as the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Animal Keeping Training Course.  The training course lasts 16-weeks (40 hours per week unpaid, un-benefited) and occurs Summer, Fall, and Winter.  The positions encompass the education of skilled professional and technical work in the routine daily care of assigned animals, enclosures and related facilities within a particular animal department.

Summer intern Jenny training a Savanna Monitor.

Summer intern Jenny training a Savanna Monitor.

Through goals set by interns and staff, each intern follows a curriculum designed to provide a basic skill set and experience for becoming an animal keeper in an AZA institution.  Each week a new topic is presented and discussed.  Topics include (but aren’t limited to) basic husbandry, operant conditioning, enrichment, nutrition, veterinary care, public speaking and presentations, green practices and conservation, and job-seeking/interview skills.  Interns are responsible for completing 4 separate projects related directly to the animals they will be caring for.  Mid-session and final reviews are conducted in order to provide each intern with constructive feedback about their contribution to the internship.

If you think this internship matches your goals in life, you will need to meet the following requirements in order to apply: 1) Current college junior or senior working toward an animal related degree, Biology, Zoology etc.; or within one year of graduation with a related degree. 2) Demonstrate commitment to working with wildlife in a zoo setting. 3) Comfortable working with a diverse collection encompassing all classes of animals.

As testament to the strength of this training course, one of our past interns gave us this feedback: “This internship has definitely been one of the best experiences of my life!  I have learned so much thanks to the generosity and time of others.  All of the topics covered facilitated my professional growth and has solidified my desire to be a zookeeper.  This internship, with its well-developed curriculum should set the bar for internships in zoos across the country.”  Wow!  What an amazing compliment.  However, we will never rest on our laurels, continuing always to improve and modify the content in order to provide the best experience possible.

Summer intern Amanda with her enrichment project, the “Snake Slalom.”

Summer intern Amanda with her enrichment project, the “Snake Slalom.”

So if you have the desire, educational background, and commitment to work with animals in a zoo setting, apply for the Zoo’s Animal Keeping Training Course.  We are currently accepting applications for the winter section.  Check out www.cincinnatizoo.org/about-us/job-opportunities/ for more information and to apply.  This is an amazing opportunity to get animal care experience at a world class institution!

November 25, 2014   No Comments

Meet Some New Faces at CREW

Welcoming Two New Post-Doctoral Fellows

Two new post-doctoral fellows, Dr. Lindsey Vansandt and Dr. Anne-Catherine Vanhove, were welcomed to CREW in the fall of 2014.

With funding support from the Joanie Bernard Foundation, Dr. Vansandt will be working with Dr. Bill Swanson, CREW’s Director of Animal Research. Dr. Vansandt obtained her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Missouri and her Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Maryland (in collaboration with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute). Her Ph.D. studies focused on characterization and propagation of spermatogonial stem cells in domestic cats as a model for conserving endangered cat species. Dr. Vansandt also has experience working in veterinary emergency services. At CREW, she will be conducting studies to improve the health and welfare of feral and shelter cats as well as helping to apply oviductal AI for propagation of endangered felids.

Lindsey Vansandt, DVM

Lindsey Vansandt, DVM

With funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Dr. Vanhove will be evaluating survival of plant samples in CREW’s Frozen Garden under the supervision of Dr. Valerie Pence, Director of Plant Research. Dr. Vanhove will complete the second phase of the IMLS project, focusing primarily on the survival of shoot tips and gametophytes after long-term storage in liquid nitrogen. She recently received her Ph.D. from the Division of Crop Biotechnics, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in Leuven, Belgium. Her thesis work with meristem culture, stress physiology, and cryopreservation makes her well suited for the IMLS project.

Anne-Catherine Vanhove

Anne-Catherine Vanhove

The University of Cincinnati/Cincinnati Zoo Connection

CREW has had a long-standing collaborative relationship with the University of Cincinnati’s (UC) Department of Biological Sciences, but today it is strengthened by two promising young scientists who split their time between CREW and UC. Corrina DeLorenzo and Megan Philpott are both enrolled in UC’s Ph.D. program under Drs. Ken Petren and Theresa Culley, respectively, but they are conducting much of their dissertation research at CREW.

Corrina earned her bachelor’s degree at Miami University, with a double major in Zoology and Environmental Science. As an undergraduate, she became involved in research evaluating the population genetics of the Italian wall lizard or “Lazarus lizard” in the Cincinnati area. After graduating, Corrina was accepted to CREW’s summer internship program, working with Dr. Erin Curry on the Polar Bear Signature Project. She was recruited into UC’s graduate program in January 2014. Since starting her Ph.D. research, Corrina has identified multiple antibodies that detect specific proteins in polar bear feces in an effort to develop a polar bear pregnancy test.

Corrina DeLorenzo

Corrina DeLorenzo

Megan received her bachelor’s degree from UC in Biology and was also an intern at the Cincinnati Museum Center, managing the Museum’s Philippine Bird Genetics project. Her Ph.D. research is part of the Plant Lab’s IMLS funded project to evaluate samples that have been stored for years in CREW’s CryoBioBank for genetic changes that might have occurred over time. In April, Megan was awarded the Botanical Society of America’s Public Policy award to attend Congressional Visits Day on Capitol Hill. There, she learned about communicating science to policy makers and met with the offices of Ohio Senators and Representatives to request their support for increased federal funding of scientific research, using CREW’s research as an example of the importance of federal funding and support. (Students supported by the UC Department of Biological Sciences, Institute of Museum and Library Services and CREW Eisenberg Fellowship.)

Megan Philpott

Megan Philpott

P&G Wildlife Conservation Scholars

In 2011, CREW established a partnership with the Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine to train veterinary students in conservation sciences with funding support from Procter & Gamble Pet Care. This past summer, two OSU veterinary students, Kelly Vollman and JaCi Johnson, were selected as P&G Wildlife Conservation Scholars.

Kelly worked with Dr. Monica Stoops analyzing urinary testosterone and glucocorticoid concentrations to determine if the pattern of excretion could be used to predict gender, parturition date and assess fetal viability during Indian rhino gestation. Kelly analyzed urine samples collected throughout seven Indian rhino pregnancies that resulted in three male and four female calves. Six of the pregnancies ended with the birth of live calves, whereas one pregnancy ended in a stillbirth, a relatively common occurrence in this rhino species. By learning more about the endocrinology of pregnancy, results from Kelly’s study will help establish physiological markers to improve pregnancy outcome in this species.

Kelly Vollman

Kelly Vollman

JaCi worked with Dr. Bill Swanson to investigate cat sperm vitrification as an alternative to standard slow freezing methods. Vitrification involves ultra-rapid cooling to avoid ice crystal formation and form a “glass” instead. For this study, JaCi collected semen from domestic cats (and one ocelot) and compared vitrification in a sucrose solution, with direct pelleting in liquid nitrogen, to slow freezing with glycerol in straws over liquid nitrogen vapor. Post-thaw sperm motility and acrosome status were similar between methods and 25% of domestic cat oocytes were fertilized following insemination with vitrified
sperm. This simplified approach to cat semen preservation may be particularly useful for field biologists working with felids in the wild.

JaCi Johnson

JaCi Johnson

November 21, 2014   No Comments