UD senior Rubino spends summer interning at Philadelphia Zoo

January 5, 2012 under CANR News

Looking for a summer internship that would provide hands-on experience with a variety of different animals, University of Delaware student Gabrielle Rubino decided that she should apply to a place defined by its animal diversity: the Philadelphia Zoo.

Rubino, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources who is majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences with a minor in wildlife conservation, applied for the animal care internship through the zoo’s website after talking with an acquaintance who had interned at the zoo in the summer of 2010.

She explained that after submitting an application, writing a letter of interest and sending two letters of recommendation, officials selected her for an interview and, ultimately, the internship.

The internship lasted 11 weeks, from the end of May until the middle of August, and Rubino started her day at the zoo every morning at 8:30 a.m. She worked alongside the staff at the Children’s Zoo, and her main duties included preparing and distributing food for the animals.

Feeding a wide array of animals, ranging from ferrets and box turtles to owls, ducks and porcupines, Rubino received first hand experience on the dietary needs of diverse wildlife.

Feeding and preparing meals was not the only part of her job, however. Rubino explained that she also “learned how to maintain animal enclosures and exhibits with proper cleaning methods. I learned proper handling, crating and capture techniques for these different animals as well.”

One of the most interesting parts of her internship was learning about animal enrichment. “I learned what it meant to provide different types of enrichment for the animals such as visual, tactile and auditory enrichment,” said Rubino. “I never knew that a Senegal parrot could be so fascinated by bubbles, or that Macaws would be completely silent while watching a Disney movie.”

Rubino also got her hands dirty tidying up various animal living spaces, cleaning out the mini-horse and donkey yards, the bunny village pens and the chicken and turkey yards. Of the cleaning process, Rubino joked, “I have never spent so much time with hay in my life, nor do I hope to again.”

When it was time to take the animals out for “play time” for the public to see, Rubino had to make sure that she was sharp on the animal information so she could answer any questions that the zoo’s visitors might have. “I was always asked questions about the animal that was out for showing so I had to be very knowledgeable on all the types of animals.”

Rubino said that she “absolutely loved this internship.” She met great friends and learned fascinating information, all the while gaining hands on experience with a variety of different animals from a staff that she described as “always helpful and willing to teach.”

Although she is not 100 percent sure what she wants to do with her future, she said that she wouldn’t rule out working at a zoo because she “enjoyed every day I spent interning at the zoo.”

For those students interested in a summer internship at the Philadelphia Zoo, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD student spends summer as intern at Baltimore’s National Aquarium

December 16, 2011 under CANR News

When Sarah Thorne was young, she would take trips to the National Aquarium in Baltimore and her favorite part would be getting to see the big three-finned turtle, Calypso, languidly swimming in the “Wings in the Water” exhibit. Little did she know that in just a few years, she’d be on the other side of the exhibit, swimming right alongside Calypso as part of a summer internship at the aquarium.

“I’ve been going to the aquarium since I was a baby and I loved this turtle, so when I got to swim with her, that was pretty neat,” said Thorne.

As an aviculture intern working in the “Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes” exhibit, Thorne, a junior Honors Program student in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was able to interact with a lot of the birds at the aquarium and she said that her favorite part involved giving the birds baths.

“At the very top of the exhibit you could put a mister on a hose and then spray it at this one tree, and the birds would all come over and start stretching out their wings to cool themselves off. That was kind of cool to watch,” Thorne said. “It was the easiest part — you just stood there and got to watch the birds.”

Her work was not restricted solely to birds, however. Thorne explained that she was able to interact with a host of different animals, including getting the opportunity to conquer her long-standing fear of snakes. “I’m afraid of snakes so they thought they’d try to let me see how I could deal with it, but I just fed them.”

Thorne said that she didn’t get around to holding the snakes and joked that she was “OK with that.”

Although sometimes she would get into a normal day-to-day routine, such as cleaning or feeding the animals, Thorne said she learned to always expect the unexpected because the animals could be unpredictable.

“Sometimes you could have a sick animal and you had to go do the veterinary exams,” she said. “You thought you were going to be preparing the diets or cleaning, then all of a sudden you were taking care of that animal instead.”

She also participated in enrichment programs for the animals, sometimes giving an animal a different toy to play with or switching its food.

Other tasks included putting up towels for flying foxes to hide behind, and spraying those towels with different animal scents. Thorne said it was while working with the flying foxes that a particularly memorable event occurred.

Thorne explained that the foxes don’t so much glide like a plane as they do crash into objects to make themselves stop: “They are crash landing flyers, they have to hit something to stop.”

So when one flying fox got stranded on a tree in the exhibit, Thorne said it “couldn’t figure out where to go next, ended up trying to fly and fell on the floor.”

She had to warn people nearby to stand back and then summoned an aquarium staff member to pick the animal up because she wasn’t allowed to do that.

Thorne said that except for being frightened, the flying fox escaped the incident without a scratch. “Luckily, he tried to land on a tree and he sort of slid down and then he fell on the floor.”

Not only did Thorne work as an intern at the National Aquarium, however. She also kept busy during the first part of the summer as a veterinary intern at a U.S. Department of Agriculture center in Beltsville, Md., while also holding down a part-time job at Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicott City, Md.

As a double major in agriculture and natural resources and animal biosciences, Thorne gained valuable hands-on experience at all of her jobs and was thrilled to get the chance to intern at the National Aquarium.

For those who would like an internship at the National Aquarium, Thorne encourages them to visit the internships website.

She also encouraged anyone who might apply not to be discouraged if things don’t work out right away. “I did apply another year and I had to apply again,” Thorne said. “So it might take two times, but it’s definitely worth it.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article was originally posted on UDaily

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