Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

During my senior year in college, I found myself returning to my childhood fascination with the natural world. I wanted to learn more about our human relationship with nature and other animals. In my free time, I would research topics like agriculture, food systems, the pet trade, and conservation programs, just to expand my understanding of that dynamic. Eventually, I learned about an internship opportunity at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and immediately applied. After a brief interview process, I soon joined the Water's Edge team, working with the polar bears, sea otters, blue runners, and other marine animals in the department.

My role as an intern was to support the staff in their daily animal husbandry tasks. I would prep all their food for the day, help with feedings and cleanings, come up with new enrichments for the animals, educate the public, and assist in training sessions. I learned a lot about how zoos and aquariums are run, from the day-to-day operations to the planning and execution of long-term goals.

Working with animals like polar bears and southern sea otters whose populations are threatened in the wild, I also learned a lot about the complicated problems surrounding the protection of wildlife. While there's certainly a lot of controversy surrounding the ethicality of zoos, it was clear to me during my time there that the team of keepers were completely dedicated to the wellbeing of the animals in their care.

Feeding sea otters can be risky business! Their sharp teeth could easily bite a human finger off. Some feedings were done behind the scenes whereas others were paired with training behaviors on exhibit.

One of my jobs was to prepare enrichments for the animals. On special occasions, like a polar bear birthday, extra care went into crafting an especially interesting treat.