WEST LIBERTY, July 20, 2018 — WLU College of Science students agree that summer is for the birds — and other wild animals!
Many of the current group of zoo science majors are working internships this summer that are ideal for those looking for careers in animal care.
“I’m very proud of all the students who are working around the country this summer and completing internships. Nothing prepares you for real life work like hands-on internships,” said Animal Care Coordinator Kinsey Guthrie, who assisted students in securing the positions.
Guthrie has been working in the zoo science and applied conservation major since its inception in 2016. She did both her undergraduate and master’s degree work at WLU and currently is involved with caring for and instructing students in animal husbandry.
“We are fortunate to have a partnership with Oglebay’s Good Zoo and other regional opportunities that offer our students a chance for real life experience in their field of study,” Guthrie added.
Rising sophomore Ally Joy of Hilliard, Ohio, is interning at the Columbus Zoo this summer where she has a chance to work in the Pachyderm Department, that houses and cares for elephants, rhinoceros and hippopotami.
Another rising sophomore Savanah Lilly of Pittsburgh is working at the National Aviary, located in her hometown.
The only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the United States, its collection includes more than 500 birds representing more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild.
“I’m planning on continuing to work this internship all summer. Some of my duties include helping out with cleaning duties and teaching guests about the birds. I also have learned a lot about signs that birds aren’t feeling well as I do health checks on the birds. The other thing I do is help with the interactive feeding of the lorikeet when guests purchase nectar to feed these little parrots that land on the guests,” said Lilly, who hopes to be a zookeeper in the future.
She also has learned to make food for the animals and enjoys helping with the penguin feedings. She even has to help find ways to keep the birds happy, by doing enrichment activities.
“I could see myself working at the National Aviary after graduation, it’s pretty awesome here.”
What bird does she like the best?
“That’s hard to say since I like the flamingos and penguins and so many others but I think it’s the screaming piha,” she said. This little grey bird is about the size of a robin and is known for its extremely loud, whistled three-part song that is a signature sound of the Amazon.
Two other students are working at Oglebay’s Good Zoo, Amanda Alig of Wheeling, and Michaela Colvin of Bloomingdale, Ohio. Both are rising juniors and planning careers in zoo or aquariums.
Alig is fortunate because her internship also is a paid part-time job as a zoo keeper and she takes care of variety of animals including red pandas, alligators, lemurs, meerkats and tamarins.
“I enjoy doing the animal encounters with guests who request this type of animal interaction,” said Alig who is looking forward to her graduation next spring.
WLU students Devyn Ferguson, Riley Gibson, Brynn Kloeppner, Dakotah Spencer, Amanda Theodoro and Chelsey Webb also are working at Good Zoo this summer. Another student, Courtney Snyder is serving an internship at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash.
WLU is one of only four schools in the country to offer a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree with a Zoo Science and Applied Conservation major. It offers career preparation for zookeepers, curators and other zoological professions, which is a growing field nationally.
Each student in the major is required to complete two internships in professional settings like an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoo.
“These internships at AZA-accredited institutions are invaluable for providing unique experiences for our students and prepare them for jobs in the field once they leave West Liberty University,” said Dr. Karen Kettler, who leads the College of Sciences as interim dean.
The College of Sciences includes the departments of Health Sciences, Natural Science and Mathematics, all offering a variety of undergraduate programs. Graduate degree programs include the physician assistant (PA) master’s degree and the BA/BS in biology master’s degree.