Category — News
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 6 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
Co-written by: Chris Edelen, Megan O’Keefe, and Wendy Rice
When it comes to incorporating natural talents into your career, few keepers have mastered the art as well as Lindsay Garrett. Not only is she super creative, but her artistic talents have come into play on more than one occasion in her role as zoo keeper. Whether she is shaping concrete for turtle enclosures or casting animal molds to raise money for conservation, Lindsay constantly finds ways to incorporate her strengths into her work.
When alligator “Lucy” was not shifting well into her holding area, Lindsay took it upon herself to trouble-shoot and come up with a solution. She reached out to keepers at other zoos for help and even built a gator-friendly ramp that would allow Lucy to feel the water in her holding pool, making shifting more comfortable for the visually-impaired crocodilian.
Additionally, Lindsay’s incredible patience and focus help make her a talented trainer. She developed a target-training program to facilitate shifting Lucy (who now shifts on cue successfully on a weekly basis!), and her colleagues call her a master of manatee training.
When it comes to educating the public, Lindsey is always willing. She even helped to develop an underwater keeper chat to help guests feel more connected to the Zoo’s manatees. Not only is Lindsay a wealth of knowledge regarding the animals in her collection, but she also conveys their environmental importance during her interactions with the public. She has also helped raise funds for conservation through her involvement with the Zoo’s American Association of Zoo Keepers chapter.
Lindsay’s positive influence even extends beyond her own department through her active involvement in the enrichment committee. Lindsay’s knowledge and insight help ensure that all the animals at our Zoo have safe and appropriate enrichment.
Co-worker Megan O’Keefe says of Lindsay: “She is ridiculously hard-working. I’ve never met anyone more on top of things than she is!” Chris Edelen said of Lindsay: “She goes above and beyond, and I am a better conservationist for seeing things through her eyes…”
Thank you for your dedication to our field Lindsay!
July 21, 2015 1 Comment