Category — Keeper Bios
Co-writted by: Danielle Swopes, Susie Semler & Wendy Rice (All keepers at the Zoo)
Our fifth and final honoree for National Zoo Keeper Week is Shelly Donohue! Shelly recently moved from the Africa Interpretive Department to the Primate Department.
When you really look at the Zoo’s core values (progressive thinking, accountability, pride, passion, positivity, etc.), meeting those standards consistently, day-in and day-out, seems like an overwhelming task for some of us. For others, like Shelly, it’s just a walk in the park.
Anyone who knows Shelly personally has borne witness to her strong set of personal values. She treats everyone fairly and with kindness and she always chooses to do the right thing, even if it’s not in her best interest. The moral fiber Shelly possesses is both admirable and inspiring, and she consistently represents herself and our institution in a shining light.
As if that weren’t enough, Shelly has also found a unique balance of integrity and congeniality. Her cheery attitude and child-like humor brighten the work place, and spending time with her (even when completing undesirable tasks) is always enjoyable. She will spend hours (while cleaning of course) calling back and forth to “Harley”, the blue and gold macaw, using high-pitched squeals, squawks, whistles, and words. Her connection with the natural world is clearly evident to anyone who has seen her interact with her critters.
Shelly is also very much a “doer”. She volunteers to do the everyday tasks that most people avoid like cleaning gutters, weed-whacking, leaf-blowing, stripping and deep cleaning animal enclosures. She never shies away from a challenging or unpleasant task, and she consistently works hard to provide a better life for the animals in her care.
Always striving to achieve more, Shelly really puts all of herself into meeting her goals. From researching future education paths to talking to field researchers and scientists to participating in Miami University’s graduate program, Shelly is always on a path of self-improvement and focused on becoming a better version of herself. With her hard-working and winning attitude, it seems the sky is the limit for this young keeper!
In a world where personal integrity seems to have a ripple effect on others, we are so proud to work alongside Shelly and call her “zoo keeper”.
July 24, 2015 No Comments
Co-written by: Lloyd Johnson and Wendy Rice
Today’s selection may surprise a few of you at first because you may not think of Michael, who works in the commissary, as a traditional keeper. But if the growth and development of our industry has taught us anything, it is that the health and well-being of our animals is highly dependent upon many people (from many departments) working cohesively and cooperatively together.
Michael is an amazing example of a keeper whose role may be hands-off when it comes to animals, but his involvement in their lives is just as important as the primary keepers’. With the growing trend towards operant conditioning training, any good keeper will tell you that the right food rewards are an absolute necessity for successful animal interactions. None of our animal departments could be successful without the hard work and dedication of the commissary staff, and Michael is a shining example of both.
When it comes to friendliness, Michael is the personification. He goes out of his way to include everyone in a conversation (from interns to seasonal staff to new staff members), and he is always considerate of others. He is more than willing to help whenever keepers need a last minute delivery or a change to their feed orders, and he does it with a kind word and a smile.
While some may chalk it up to his naturally happy personality, I would argue that Michael’s ability to maintain a positive attitude is actually the ultimate form of professionalism. It is almost impossible to interact with Michael and not walk away feeling a little bit happier. It takes a really strong person to be able to put on a happy face in any situation, and very few keepers around the Zoo have mastered the skill as well as Michael.
It is not surprising that it was difficult to find a solo picture of Michael Berry as he is the ultimate people person. He always goes out of his way to give seasonal staff and interns an incredible Zoo experience, and he is arguably one of the most genuine people here.
Anyone who is fortunate enough to interact with Michael on a regular basis will tell you that he definitely brings a light-hearted joy with him wherever he goes. In an industry where our down days can be some of the worst of our lives, people like Michael Berry are worth their weight in gold!
July 23, 2015 No Comments
Co-written by: Jenny Gainer, Cody Sowers, Aimee Owen, & Wendy Rice (All keepers at the Zoo)
Our third honoree for National Zoo Keeper Week is Rickey Kinley! Rickey works as a keeper in the Aviculture (bird) department. Of all the nominations we received this year for National Zoo Keeper Week, only one keeper, Rickey, was unanimously selected by the committee as well. Rickey serves as an excellent role model for so many keepers in so many different ways, it’s no wonder he was an easy selection!
As a former student with the Zoo’s high school, the Zoo Academy, Rickey naturally connects with the current Zoo Academy students and he absolutely sets the bar in terms of mentorship. Rickey always takes the time to get to know each student and he uses what he learns about them to relate to and inspire that student. Ricky goes out of his way to include the students and make them feel like they have an important role in the bird department, and he consistently challenges them to try new things, even if they are unsure of themselves.
Head Keeper Jenny Gainer says of Rickey, “He was a mentor of mine as a student, so I’ve experienced it first-hand. And I’ve witnessed even 15 years later he still goes the extra mile to work with these kids and support the program.”
Outside of his stellar involvement with Zoo Academy students, Rickey clearly connects with every keeper he works with as well, and the fun and playful relationship he shares with most colleagues was evident in their praise and recognition for him. According to his coworkers, Rickey likes to laugh at penguins, and he likes to laugh in general. He has an international fan club that spans many generations and in the past, he may or may not have been known to rock a sweet flat-top hairstyle (a la “Kid N’Play”). Additionally, some reports suggest that the “Morgan Freeman of the Birdhouse” has been known to eat multiple cans of spinach a day (in spite of not having a Popeye-style anchor tattoo), and owns one of the most musically diverse iPods currently in existence (although this fact has not yet been confirmed by Apple Inc. or Guinness World Records).
But in all seriousness, this experienced keeper, who trained under Andrew Erkenbrecker himself, possesses vast avian knowledge and has published many different papers on training (including one of the first papers ever published on penguin training!). Rickey is well versed in critical and logical thinking and he performs well when pushed outside of the box. His contributions to the bird department have been innumerable over the years, and he is absolutely a shining example of zoo keeping. Thanks for all that you do Rickey!
July 22, 2015 2 Comments