annnnnnnd FIN

December 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Yesterday was my last day at the aquarium.
I loved every second of it. I worked on my own in the morning, which is nice because I almost feel like an independent worker.

The afternoon brought the fantastic stuff, though. Really. It’s not that I’m trying to make you jealous or anything, but…um…I fed a tiger. How many people can say that they have fed a tiger?! I got to feel up a tiger’s paw pads (and was scared shitless when his claws extended ever so slightly), as well as the webbing between an otter’s toes. I worked loads of behaviors I hadn’t yet been allowed to work. It was like I was getting a jackpot for my semester of hard work. It was definitely one of my proudest moments as an adult (or something like it). (For behind-the-scenes photos, ask me to e-mail them to you.)

The trying questions keep coming, though. Has this internship confirmed that you want to do this as a living? Do you plan on getting another internship at a zoo, or volunteering somewhere? Are you going to stay in Denver?


What’s next?


To be honest, I haven’t a clue.

Things I can say with some assurance:

+ I am pretty dang tired of working for free.

+ I am fairly certain that the aquarium doesn’t really want me back…ouch.

+ I am going to see where this lighting thing takes me.

+ I am going to do a little research into zoos in foreign countries, mainly Spain, Australia, and England.

+ I am going to stay in Denver for at least a few more months and try to save up some money.

+ I honestly have no idea where my life is going, but I am also pretty certain that it is far-fetched that I will be working a boring desk job anytime soon.


Rush to finish

December 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve always been really good at procrastinating, even though it causes a little stress…so why should this be any different?

Project presentation is getting its final touches for the “happening” tomorrow.
Everything else also sort of feels a little rushed, too. Yesterday I started doing “swim” and “deck” with Blue. He’s pretty good at them but he is struggling to do turns in the water. Yesterday I also got to start feeding Wallace.

My last day is Tuesday, and I feel like things are going to be rushed to get me to do everything I’m allowed to do by my end date. Should be interesting.
Yesterday also meant some really cool stuff going on with the tigers and Neema. For photos and video, go to

Tess the Reptile Girl?

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve never been much for herpetology. Never felt the need to go crazy about reptiles at all, really, because they were always a little creepy to me. I wasn’t really afraid of them, but freshman year of college when I saw someone feeding dead mice to his snake, I was turned off to them. Little did I know that dead mice as feeder animals would be pretty normal to me just four years later.

Tuesday I was allowed to handle Rocky, a male ball python. Handling a snake is possibly one of the coolest things I’ve done in this internship… The way their muscles move is so strange and I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was pretty neat. Yesterday I was allowed to handle Lucy, a more temperamental female ball python (who is a lot smaller than Rocky). The reason that ball pythons are named ball pythons is because they curl up into a ball to be comfortable. To get a snake out of its enclosure, you have to let the snake know that you are intending to handle it by basically petting it (toward the tail– that’s important). Then you can slowly pick up the snake in its curled-up form, and as it gets more comfortable with you, it will open itself up. I thought that handling the snakes was so dang cool, I’d even consider getting one as a pet, now.

Targets, Turns and Reptiles (I lost track of the days…)

November 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have recently been fortunate enough to get back to work at the aquarium full time, and have been seemingly rewarded for doing so. I am now allowed to work targets with the chickens (so cute!) and to do turns with the otters (also super cute). Along with these new allowances, I was supposed to be gaining permission to handle Niles the Savannah monitor, but due to an unfortunate incident with one of the other interns where Niles became aggressive, I am not allowed to handle him. I have gained the knowledge of how to handle the snakes that we have as ambassador animals (two ball pythons), but I have not yet been given permission to actually handle them.

On top of these things, today I did my first otter chat. It’s fun to do a chat when no one listens to you. Especially when it’s the first one. Then you don’t have to stress about screwing up. Haha. I spewed out basic information about our otters (twelve years old, came from the Louisiana otter farm, a sanctuary for otters where their “owners” who had taken them from the wild took them when they decided that otters don’t make good pets, Blue and Slater, et cetera), and then talked about training and enrichment and the like. It wasn’t very difficult or nerve-racking, but it was new!

Physical Nature

November 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have always been a very active person. I’ve always tried to play sports and keep in good shape, and that includes always working very physically demanding positions. My work at the aquarium is no exception to this, as you can probably see by the chronicles I’ve posted here about my daily duties.

I recently suffered an injury to my ankle while playing an indoor soccer game and have been out of work for the past two days. I am believed to have just pulled the tendon that runs along the ankle, not broken it (thank God), but it is still very painful and I haven’t been able to drive or pretty much do any serious moving around since the injury two nights ago. I am hoping to get back to work at my paid job on Friday, and maybe even back to the aquarium by Saturday, but I’m not sure I’ll be super helpful.

The human body is incredibly fragile. Working it constantly is sure to put a lot of stress on it, while keeping it toned as well. I now realize that if I am serious about any of the jobs I am considering doing in the future (animals, concerts, theatre, etc), I need to take very good care of my body to keep it in good running order. If I don’t, everything can be spoiled very quickly.

Days 23 & 24, October 26th & 27th, 2010

October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s common knowledge that the only people who enjoy being evaluated are those that know that they are doing a good job.
The only reason I didn’t dread my evaluation (other than the fact that I forgot about it) was that I assumed I was going to be positively evaluated. I’ve very rarely been negatively evaluated, so I assumed I would be fine. I didn’t realize that I had screwed up and upset a trainer or two by playing know-it-all with power tools. Being in my situation is sort of odd. I have a lot of knowledge in a lot of different areas, and in terms of power tools and carpentry, I like to think I have more knowledge than the average person. Working in the shop, I was constantly working with people who had no clue what to do if someone handed them a circular saw or a mig welder. It was frustrating, but I got into a habit of just assuming that I was going to have to teach people more efficient ways to get things done. Not everyone is hopeless, though.

There have been a few instances at the aquarium where I’ve acted like my peers were incompetent when it comes to power tools and I looked down my nose at them. I had a poor attitude and now I realize what a jerk I was. It’s certainly something to work on. This was the main problem with my evaluation. I work fine and do the dirty tasks that I’m asked to do, but I need to check my attitude. I apologize.

On a lighter note, I have been allowed to work behaviors other than calm stationing with the animals lately! Yesterday I was allowed to do targets with the bunnies (a problem now because one of them isn’t doing so hot, so I don’t know when I’ll get to do more targeting with him/them), and today I was allowed to do targets with the otters. It is so freaking fun to work behaviors with them because they’re so well trained already that I feel like a rock star. They don’t really ever lose focus with their targets. It’s fantastic. Automatic success!

Christine has also begun working targets on the chickens and it is the funniest thing to watch. They will jump to peck the target but they kick their feet forward and so their heads and feet are both going forward, but their butts are sticking out…it’s totally cute.
Halfway through my internship.

Days 19 & 20, October 16th & 19th, 2010

October 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

I don’t even know why I bothered to take a shower today.

But to be fair, I wouldn’t have showered if I had known what was in store for me today. Let me put something out there: I got a bit destroyed today.

It was a normal morning at the aquarium. I cleaned parrot exhibit (basically rearranging all of their perches and changing out their enrichment) and Wallace’s enclosure (he hates me and certainly tried to peck at my head today) and then went to help in tigers. For the most part, tigers was already finished, so I just hung around until it was time to do something else. Next on the docket was finishing painting the brand new raptor mews. I wasn’t planning on helping with this but since I really don’t mind paint work, I volunteered to help out, which meant I was assigned waterproofing the cross bracing on the ceiling. This wasn’t very fun anyway without a Genie lift or some sort of moving height assistance (a six-foot ladder was all I had at my disposal), but two of the other girls were painting the inside of one of the mews and I tried to squeeze by one of the girls and got a bunch of grey paint all over my backside. Awesome. I was already covered in oil-based waterproofing, which sucked because I have cuts all over my right hand for various reasons, and now I had grey paint all over my singular set of clothing for working at the aquarium.

While I was bummed I hadn’t known we would be painting (and thus prepared by wearing painting clothing), I was used to ruining good clothing, so I wasn’t too ticked about the whole situation. After we finished painting, we ate lunch, and while we were in the office, Kyle (the horticulturist on staff) came in to tell us that we had received our sod. (Apparently we thought that sod was good enrichment, so we purchased about twelve little 3’x3′ squares of sod.) I helped second-semester intern Amy load the sod onto a cart, and we pushed it to the elevator and traveled to the second floor. We only needed two squares for the otters, so I decided it was a good idea to cradle a roll in my arms. When we got to otters, I set the roll down and surveyed the scene: My arms were a bit scratched up from the dirt, and I was just covered in dirt. “At least dirt washes off,” I said to myself. Karla went onto exhibit to clean up the otter poop before we were to put the sod onto exhibit, and I followed her with my roll of sod. She had missed a large spot of poop in the entry to the exhibit, so I took a large step over it and slipped, landing on my knees with this large roll of sod in my arms, and catching myself before I fell into either a) the poop that I had stepped over or b) the water that covers 2/3 of the exhibit. I scraped up both of my knees (probably bruised, too), furthered the dirt situation on my entire outfit, and got my pant leg wet in my attempt to stay above water. I stood back up and looked at the trainers, who were both laughing at me, commending me for not falling in, and making sure I wasn’t seriously injured. “I should just go home,” I said.

I didn’t go home immediately, because I at least wanted to see the fruits of my labor. The otters loved the sod so much that they pooped on it (actually entertaining because they have to shake their butts up and down in order to poop). We then moved on to tigers and made a nice sod carpet for them on the first floor of their exhibit. They, too, had to mark their territory on the sod, but seemed to enjoy it none the less.

Thank God. I would have been pretty pissed if they had all been indifferent to the sod.

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