Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, to learn about their jobs, and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!
This session with the interns has been educational, inspirational, and fun! We asked the interns what this program meant to them, how it may have impacted them, and what was their favorite memory during the program. Here’s what they had to say…
As our session of Zoo InternQuest ends, I can confidently say that one of the best opportunities I’ve had so far in my life is ending along with it. I’ve loved getting to see and hear and learn about all of the amazing animals and careers the Zoo has, and working together with the other interns to write a blog entry about each one. I’ve learned quite a bit from the weeks we spent at the Zoo, with perhaps the most important one being that experience is in many situations more important than extensive education. Many of the people we interviewed only really needed a bachelor’s degree to qualify, but spent hundreds of hours in different training programs, internships, and volunteer positions before and even after they were hired by the Zoo. The people we interviewed also gave me incredibly valuable information in terms of what career path I might want to choose as I get older. I planned on becoming a veterinarian, but I’m now realizing I may want to do something involved with animals and animal care at the Zoo. I really enjoyed seeing and learning about the animals and how they were taken care of, and could imagine myself working in the same field or job as some of the specialists who were talking to us. My favorite presentations were the ones with sloths (I’ve always wanted to see a sloth up close) and the ones with the care specialist who took care of a certain animal or group, because I really liked the hands-on aspect. I think a career as a Wildlife Care Specialist, Wildlife Behavior Specialist, or a Neonatal Care Specialist would be best suited for me because, in addition to the hands-on part of the job, I think I would be really good at discerning how best to take care of the wildlife I would be in charge of through body language and other cues. All in all, I enjoyed this experience very very much and I will use the valuable and interesting information I’ve learned for a long time to come.
The San Diego Zoo Internquest has by far been an amazing experience. Being able to meet specialists in the field of wildlife and listen to their different views and advice has undoubtedly been one of my favorite aspects of the Internquest (although, learning about the different types of wildlife around the zoo while being up close and personal with them has also been pretty incredible). I’ve learned many things that you just simply cannot learn in a classroom or from online research. The experience has taught me that it’s okay to not know exactly what specific career you’d like to pursue in zoology and that it’s important to experiment with your options. I now have a deeper understanding of a handful of occupations, and through the Internquest, I’ve discovered some careers I’d love to pursue someday, whether it’s being a neonatal care specialist, a wildlife care specialist, or a field biologist. Overall, the Internquest has deepened my understanding and interest in wildlife, along with the careers that work beside them. I encourage anyone who has a passion for wildlife conservation to take part in the Internquest; I’m certain it’ll have as much of an impact on them as it did for me.
Looking ahead, eight weeks seems like a long time. Looking back, these eight weeks seemed to have gone by in a flash. I first applied for ZIQ to see what career I would want. I didn’t anticipate meeting so many dedicated, amazing people. When talking with each presenter I was amazed at how much passion they had for their job. Most of them didn’t even see it as a “job”, but instead something they loved to do and dedicated themselves to their role. Each of the presenters are so incredibly unique but were united by their love for their job and the animals they care for. Their passion has inspired me to find a career that I too am equally passionate about. With the insight I now have, I’ve determined that the best career for me would be a Wildlife Care Specialist. I want to be able to form a bond with an animal and watch it grow into an ambassador for its species. Besides having the opportunity to meet various presenters, I got to meet people with similar interests: my fellow interns! Even though we only spent eight weeks together, they made everything so much more fun and I hope they continue to pursue their dreams of working in zoology.
I’ve learned so much in so little time and I am so thankful for being able to take part in this program. So thank you presenters, ZIQ team, and my fellow interns, you guys really made these eight weeks an unforgettable experience!
“Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.” To be fair, although fruit flies were never spotlighted in the ZIQ program, time certainly flew by much faster than I expected during my stay. Time also has the tendency to fly when fun is being had, and to my utter dismay, it seems that the arrow it embodies is quickly encroaching a vertical trajectory. To be fairly honest, I came in not quite knowing what to expect and came out more than satisfied. It would do the program a great disservice to romanticize it, to inflate the very real merits it provides by perpetuating the grandiose “zoo internship” plaque often subconsciously slapped onto any mention of the ZIQ. In my experience, the other interns and I were introduced to real experts in the conservation field, and were given a realistic scope into their lives: the ups, the downs, all of it. Nothing more, nothing less. And it was really cool.
It occurred to me that there was a tightly taut thread which tied every presenter together: passion. Every presenter genuinely loved what they did for a living. Every presenter genuinely cared for the animals they worked with. And remarkably, every presenter was genuinely determined to achieve and maintain the highest standards in their line of work. You, yes, you, the reader, may be wondering why it seems like I lied to you seven sentences prior and went on to completely romanticize the experience. And to that, I say that the fact that I could groundedly seem to romanticize the past eight weeks speaks for itself. I had quite the enjoyable experience cracking jokes with the other interns, taking weekly pictures of the flamboyance of flamingos by the San Diego Zoo entrance, improvising questions to try to stump the experts (most attempts were unsurprisingly unsuccessful), and seeing the conservation field from a whole new perspective. Even though I found no personal interest in the career paths showcased in this program, the ZIQ proved to be highly valuable to me as an onlooker all the same. The rainy day in the jungle may have already passed, but I’ll be sure to cherish it, even on not-so-rainy days which aren’t exactly in the jungle.
After eight full weeks of adventure and learning in the IntenQuest program at the San Diego Zoo, our journey has sadly come to an end. I have had the opportunity to meet with many incredible workers at the Zoo, from wildlife care specialists to senior research coordinators, and they have all left a lasting impression on me, further inspiring me to look for a career in conservation. They taught me that I do not need to know exactly what I want to do right now, but that instead, I should focus on what is important to me, which will eventually lead to me finding my passion. I can say one thing with utmost certainty: my future career will play a part in the conservation of wildlife and the protection of our planet. Of the many wonderful presentations we had the pleasure of experiencing, the most intriguing subject was the genetics work being done in an effort to bring back the northern white rhino from the brink of extinction. The complex and exciting advancements in genetic biology being made in this project are a source of hope for many critically endangered species around the world. Projects such as this one are one of the main reasons the San Diego Zoo is known around the world. The dedication to the future of wildlife I have seen during this opportunity has inspired me not just to get a job in the conservation field, but to also start implementing more ecologically friendly habits into my daily life. These habits include avoiding single-use plastic and unsustainably harvested palm oil. All of us can make small changes to our lifestyles to help our planet remain green and beautiful. Together it is possible to make an impact and help preserve Earth’s wildlife for future generations to enjoy. Thank you InternQuest for giving me this experience.
Before the Zoo Internquest, I had a feeling I wanted to work with wildlife, but now that the program is coming to an end, I am extremely confident in my wanting to pursue this as a career. We met professionals from all aspects of zoology and heard the ups and lows of each career, and this just makes me more excited for the future. I feel like the biggest take-away I’ve had from the ZIQ experience is that pursuing a career in zoology is actually viable and achievable. It’s so hard to find real authentic information and stories, about working in fields like wildlife conservation and zoology, that it makes me doubt imagining myself in one of these positions. To see the passion and drive all the professionals had for animals and how they helped different species thrive (directly or not) has solidified what I want to major in and pursue as a career. Another important take-away I noted from meeting these professionals was how important it is to try new things and gain valuable life experiences. Each presenter, one way or another, made it clear that being able to branch out and get experience is extremely important (not only in attaining a job in this competitive field , but in growing as a person.) From going to the Rhino Rescue Center and learning how vital their work is to the northern white rhino to meeting a wildlife care specialist who (on her free time) started multiple organizations to help improve animal conditions and trainer diversity, I’ve had an amazing experience here at ZIQ that has inspired me to (hopefully) pursue a career in this field.
Our incredible journey comes to an outstanding end. Being a part of Zoo Internquest, I learned so much about the vital different careers involving wildlife and wildlife conservation. This internship has opened the door to so many amazing careers that I had never been exposed to before. All of the occupations were fascinating, but the position I was especially interested in was the Neonatal Assisted Care Specialist. This job really stood out to me among the others because of the extreme precision, extensive care, and enormous responsibility that came with it. I loved how dedicated and devoted the presenter, Ms. Zabrina Bohy, was towards her profession when she spoke to us. I definitely will be looking into this career path as an option for my future.
The best part of this internship for me was, of course, getting to see the animals up close, but I greatly enjoyed the passion every single presenter expressed when speaking to us about their job. I appreciated their honesty when we asked them about the hardships that go along with many of these careers. Hardships such as, giving up parts of a social life, being on-call 24/7, early mornings and late nights. This showed me that having a position that directly involves animals is not just “getting to see wildlife all day,” there are some serious sacrifices that are a part of these professions. However, this internship showed me that I would love to make those sacrifices and take on those challenges. As our amazing Educator guides said in week one, “You spend most of your life working, might as well do something that you love.” I plan to take these wonderful Words of Wisdom and do my best to live by them, all thanks to Zoo Internquest!
Through the San Diego Zoo Internquest program, I had an incredible opportunity to explore different careers at the various San Diego Zoo Wildlife facilities. I got to see firsthand what it takes to work behind the scenes, and a recurring theme of dedication and genuine passion for conservation was standard amongst every professional. Another similarity I noticed was how many wildlife care specialists had earned an associate’s degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management (EATM) from Moorpark college. While the internship helped me recognize that I might not want to be a wildlife care specialist, I want to pursue getting a similar degree to be well equipped to be a helpful volunteer. Planning to study how business and environmentalism intersect at college, I know now that I want a job that never ceases to surprise me – characteristic of the dynamic nature of working at the San Diego Zoo. Despite a global pandemic, I am so grateful for how hard the educators worked to make this program possible!
Week Seven, Spring Session 2021