Student Stories: It was a zoo in there, but she loved it

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Picture this: a flock of parrots gathered around a television, watching "Cinderella." If that sounds unrealistic, think again. Ashley Hallowell, a graduate from the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences veterinary and biomedical sciences program, got to witness this very spectacle during her internship with the Philadelphia Zoo last year.

"The macaws would watch movies, and 'Cinderella' was their favorite," she said about a specific breed of parrot she worked with. "If it wasn't started from the beginning, they were not happy campers."

The movies were part of Hallowell's favorite responsibility as an animal-care intern. In the early afternoon of each workday, the interns created enrichment activities for the animals in the exhibits and enclosures. It allowed them to observe the unique personalities of each animal. Enrichment, according to Hallowell, is just a big word for "toys."

The Philadelphia native worked within the Children's Zoo, providing routine husbandry for animals in the exhibits. She chose to apply for this internship because, after many years of working in and out of small animal veterinary hospitals, she was ready to experience something different.

The Philadelphia Zoo offered her a chance to explore exotic medicine, a different field of veterinary medicine that she had not yet encountered.

Besides parrots, Hallowell worked with hedgehogs, porcupines, rabbits, chinchillas, armadillos, owls, hawks, snakes and many other species.

Her other daily duties included preparing and distributing food, maintaining exhibits, assisting with keeping animal health and behavioral records, assisting with animal training and educating the public about various species at the zoo.

"Properly educating the public on the animals in the exhibits and the enclosures was the most challenging part of my internship," she said. "Making sure to study before educating was crucial."

She explained that since the zoo is a learning experience, it was necessary to have basic knowledge of the animals so she could describe their behavior and habits to the public and be prepared to answer any questions.

After graduating in May, Hallowell accepted a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a microbiologist. She currently is applying for veterinary school for fall 2014 admission.

Despite the challenges Hallowell faced throughout her college career, she advises students never to be afraid of a challenge.

"There is so much on this planet to explore," she said. "Undertake an adventure. Go experience a new field of study, travel to an unfamiliar location and befriend new people."

And if you're lucky, some of those new faces might even include movie-watching parrots.

Get information about the veterinary and biomedical sciences major.

 

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Last Updated December 17, 2013