Animals

My Internship

By Victoria Shuster

My internship was at Our Companions Animal Rescue and Sanctuary located in Ashford, CT, about twenty minutes from campus. I have always known that I wanted to work with animals, and when this opportunity came up, I knew I had to do it. While some students have to actively hunt down a place to intern (see From Puppies to Skinks: How Internships Shaped My Career Path), my process for getting this internship was pretty straightforward.  After receiving an email from the Animal Science Department, which forwards relevant opportunities to their majors, I contacted the owner of the rescue stating my interest. I was invited to fill out an application and schedule an interview. That day, I met with Lindsey, the volunteer and intern coordinator, took a tour of the facility, and landed the internship! Then I met with Dr. Milvae, one of the faculty members who coordinates internship credits in Animal Science, and set up my requirements so that I could receive college credit. Here’s my advice when it comes to finding and applying for an internship:

  1. Remember that transportation is key. Don’t let it discourage you, but if you don’t have reliable transportation, look for something nearby or wait until you can bring a car to campus. Also, remember to factor in transportation time — you don’t want to be late to an exam because roads were slippery or traffic was slow!
  2. Be professional. This should go without saying, but think of an internship like a job. Paid or unpaid, you still should make a good impression as an internship could lead to a job or at least a great recommendation one day.
  3. Find something you love or, at the very least, are interested in learning about. UConn requires at least two hours a week to receive one credit, so even though two hours doesn’t seem like a lot, it will if you hate the job you’re doing.
  4. Make sure you have the time. I originally signed up to do six hours a week, and then I remembered I was taking Organic Chemistry II and very promptly cut my hours. I was lucky to have a boss who didn’t mind me switching my hours around, but you may not be so lucky. Make sure you have thoroughly thought about the time commitment you are about to make before you sign on.

Our Companions Animal Rescue is  a unique facility. Each animal has its own personal room to create a home environment, allowing  animals that would never make it in a traditional shelter to thrive. I was an intern for the cat sanctuary. A lot of the job was cleaning and assisting staff with their daily duties, but once I was finished, I got to work very hands on with the cats. My main task was dealing with behavior. For the friendlier cats, this meant getting them used to having their paws touched, being loaded into carriers and getting wrapped in towels. For more skittish cats, my job was to socialize them and get them used to human touch. I was also able to help medicate the cats and shadow the vet when she came to the shelter once a week.

The internship taught me about shelter life, even though OC is different from typical shelters. I learned a lot about behavior and how to create positive, corrective experiences. It will be useful for me in the future as I plan to attend vet school in the fall of 2021. I enjoyed all of my time there and encourage everyone to visit/donate/volunteer or even follow in my footsteps and become an intern there.

Working at the UConn Horse Barn

By Julia Brower

My entire life I have loved horses. In fact, when I was a kid, my mom used to tell me that there were no horses in Connecticut, hoping that it was just a phase. It was not just a phase, and I eventually called her bluff. When I turned eight years old, I had my first riding lesson on a big chestnut horse named Jackson and have continued riding ever since. At home, I get to ride at least two to three horses every time I go. Their names are Venus, Roxy, and Otis, and they are all fun in their own way.

When it finally became time to embark on my journey at UConn, I continued my horseback riding lessons in order to provide a comfort zone that could make the university feel a bit smaller. Since I was only a freshman, I decided to wait until I had gotten used to the college lifestyle before finding an on-campus job. Being an animal science major on the pre-vet track, I was worried about struggling in the hard classes that were soon to come. When sophomore year came along, however, a job opened up at the horse barns, just as I felt ready to become more involved on campus. I was already in the barn a lot, considering that I took lessons and had just started an independent study with a horse named Slick that I rode and worked with every day on my own time. (Now that horse has actually been sold and is doing really well!) That October, I started my first day as a student employee of the UConn horse barns.

Me and my friend Rachel getting hay for the truck.

Working at the horse barns can be tough. It involves a lot of hay splinters, and dust, as well as the cleaning out of fifty stalls every day, but I would not change it for a thing. The good times of this job outweighs the bad. We get to see the baby horses and even help take care of them. My favorite baby of this bunch is Ziva, who is the daughter of Zoe, a big Friesian, and she can be very feisty.

Me and Ziva

We sometimes play music while cleaning stalls and do side projects like walking polo ponies to a pasture down the road in the summer or taking pictures of horses that are for sale. Some other tasks are not as exhausting; for example, we sometimes hand walk some of the injured horses or groom the ones that we are going to breed.

Abigail Rose as a newborn.

Ever since my first day, I have gained so much knowledge that I never thought I would get as a student worker. I’ve made some new friends, gained the trust of my bosses, and was able to observe and assist the veterinarian and farrier. Because I am an animal science major, these opportunities at my job are extremely helpful because I would not have had the same experiences if I had simply chosen a typical student job, like working in the dining hall, just for money or involvement. Being here, I have gained some leadership skills by being one of the more experienced workers, as well as public speaking skills in having to talk to visitors. While some jobs may be stressful, working and being at the barn is actually my stress reliever because I can just go into a stall and pet a horse whenever I want. In working at the UConn horse barn, I am forever grateful for the opportunities that I have gotten and the ones to come. Being a part of something so meaningful to me in college is wonderful, and I suggest to any new students that you seek that place or job that you enjoy and can relieve the stress of academic life.

From Puppies to Skinks: How Internships Shaped my Career Path

by Apurva Gangakhedkar

I know you are most likely expected to get some kind of internship and/or volunteer position over the summer; however, it can be quite hard for students interested in animals to find a position that they love that also gives them relevant experience. As someone looking ahead to veterinary school, I want to share the different types of internships that I did to step out of my comfort zone, learn a lot and still enjoy my summer.

            Of course, I started off contacting many veterinary clinics to ask about any type of volunteer position, internship, or shadowing that might be available, but it wasn’t easy to find one willing to take me on. Persistence paid off because I finally received a position at a vet clinic as a clinic assistant, helping both technicians and veterinarians. It was a great hands-on experience, learning about vaccines, where they’re injected, bloodwork, and how each exam is given based on the current problem. I was even allowed to watch surgeries from when pets would become anesthetized to when they got to go home. My routine was very similar every day, depending on the time I would come in and leave. My day in the morning would start off with getting all the equipment turned on, looking ahead to the next patients coming in and admitting any surgery patients we had that morning. From there, I would assist the technicians in the exam room and equip the veterinarians with any tools or equipment needed during surgery. One of the best experiences I had working at the clinic was when I assisted with an emergency c-section on a dog. The experience was so thrilling. Being able to see little puppies coming out of the womb, warming them up and seeing them healthy and alive, really excited me to continue on to veterinary medicine. Alongside that, I was able to develop my communication skills with clients and get to know them personally while working at the front desk. Here I could learn all the office management skills in case they needed some extra help in the front as well. Lastly, I made valuable connections with all my co-workers and the veterinarians who taught me so well and gave me the motivation to continue my journey to vet school.

After working at the clinic, I wanted a different experience with animals to see if this was the right path for sure. I contacted a nearby zoo and was able to get an internship there working with exotic animals. In this environment, I got to work with a wide variety of species on different days. I had to learn their diets and observe their behaviors in order to see if they had any changes on a daily basis. I was constantly on my toes, learning about new animals every day, ones that I have never heard of, and ones that I knew but got to know better.  It’s fascinating to see how each animal is so different but so similar in their own way. A new experience that the zoo added to the internship was assigning one animal that you would get to work with the entire summer, and for me it was a blue tongued skink. When I first saw this, I thought they made a typo and were giving me a skunk, but a blue tongued skink is really an animal!

Meet the skink!

I was able to look up facts about the skink and learn its behavior inside and outside of its home. For an hour a day we would let children come and pet the skink and answer any questions they had. It was really exciting to show people a  species that they haven’t seen before and were as interested in as I was. I never thought that working at the zoo would change my career path, but it did, and now I want to focus more on exotic animals.

New experiences can shape the course of your life. Working, volunteering, or interning is a great way to find this out. I recommend reaching out to try new things, even if it takes a while, and maybe it will change your path like it did mine.   

 

Shaping My Classes to Fit My Career in the Animal Science Major

by Heather Lopez

Throughout my childhood and into early adulthood, I had everything planned. I wanted to become a veterinarian, and did what I could to be successful in veterinary medicine. By the time I was thirteen, I was certified in pet first aid. At fourteen, I was accepted into Trumbull Regional Agriscience and Biotechnology Center, an agricultural education-based program that allowed high school students to navigate and explore the many fields of agriculture. While in the program, I majored in animal science and got to work with small exotics, such as corn snakes, and livestock, such as sheep. I began shadowing at a vet hospital, and couldn’t have been more in love with veterinary medicine. After graduating high school, I was asked by the technician manager at the vet hospital if I wanted a job there, and immediately began working as a veterinary assistant. 

I started my freshman year of college fully believing that becoming a veterinarian was the perfect career choice for me and that I could handle the academic pressure, but that started to change by the end of my first year at UConn. I met so many people with so many different perspectives on agriculture, veterinary medicine, and food production. It was then that I realized that not everyone had the same opportunity that I did when it came to being exposed to agricultural education and having experience in the various fields. I began to feel a deep interest in the education aspect, and by the fall semester of my sophomore year, I decided to change career goals and pursue teaching agricultural education instead of vet school. 

This was an easy decision to make, but I became very stressed because I was studying under the pre-vet concentration and had no idea what classes I should take not only to look good on my master’s application, but also to help me become a future agricultural educator. I still loved veterinary medicine, and I knew that if there was one subject I wanted to teach more than anything, it was animal science, but I had no clue how to formulate a pre-education class schedule in a STEM major. I didn’t want to double major or add a minor halfway through college because I still wanted to graduate in 2020. After meeting with my academic advisor, I found out that I can still study under the pre-vet concentration as an animal science major, but didn’t have to take all the courses required for that concentration area because I was no longer applying for vet school. He explained to me that I had a lot more leeway in my schedule, and can incorporate not only more animal science elective courses into my schedule, but also other classes offered in the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources (CAHNR), like those offered in Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) and Sustainable Plant and Soil Systems (SPSS).

Since then, I have taken classes not only within animal science, but also in other CAHNR departments, such as a wetlands conservation and biology course and an introductory course in agricultural economics, among others. During this time, I’ve continued to work as a veterinary assistant because I still have a passion for veterinary medicine, but I’ve also taken courses and participated in CAHNR events that I never would have if it weren’t for being able to really mold and shape my class schedule to my particular career and personal interests within the animal science major. I’ve been able to take a lab animal science course where I learned about anesthesiology and got to perform a rat neuter under the supervision of a veterinarian, I competed in the annual dairy show, and I was able to attend the 2019 American Preveterinary Medicine Association symposium in Pennsylvania. The opportunities in the animal science major are endless, and I feel fortunate to be part of a program that caters to my interests and career goals, even as they have shifted over my college career. The wonderful thing about CAHNR and the animal science major is that even though there are concentrations to guide students towards the next steps in their pursuits, nothing is completely set in stone and every student has the ability to shape their classes and college experience to how they want it to be.     

 

NRE Major? What’s is that, exactly?

by Hannah Desrochers

Every holiday that I spend with my family, I find myself explaining exactly what a Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) major is, and what I plan to do with it in the future. Many of my friends at UConn think that I am in Environmental or Animal Science. How did I get involved in such a little known major? 

The author with Loki at Honeyguide Ranger Camp, South Africa.

Truth be told, I was drawn in after a discussion with Dr. Ortega, one of the NRE faculty members. After just one semester within NRE, I had the opportunity to study ecology abroad in South Africa, and I knew that my future was within this field. I was able to learn about elephants, rhinos, lions, and much more within their natural setting, while also getting some hands-on animal care experience with the camp caracal, Loki. The learning experiences that occurred during my three weeks on the game reserve felt vastly different from any other type of learning I had experienced before, and I was eager to continue those experiences back home at UConn. It was fascinating to see just a small example of the opportunities that are available across the globe to study wildlife.  

I underestimated the height of the waders I would need!

Since then, I have found myself outside for nearly all of my labs, and for a fair share of my lectures as well. Every semester I have been in classes that have allowed me to do everything from taking water samples in waist deep water, to setting up trail cams to test a hypothesis on what animals inhabit certain areas of campus. It baffles me when I speak to friends in other colleges, who spend all day stuck inside a traditional classroom. Going into college, I was undecided, but I knew that I wanted to go into a profession where I wouldn’t necessarily be stuck behind a desk all day. The College of Agriculture, Health & Natural Resources  as a whole, and specifically Natural Resources, has made that goal a reality. 

Just the other day, I visited the Bronx Zoo as part of one of my classes to study mammals. I learned more than I ever could in a classroom, and got to do so out in the fresh air, face to face with amazing animals. Through this experience, I learned about the role of zoos in conservation, while also learning about feeding habits, social structures and many other biological facts. For example, did you know that rhinos are odd-toed ungulates, meaning they are actually related to horses, zebras and tapirs? As a student within the Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation concentration of NRE, it was fascinating to see how conservation is woven into the mission of the zoo. Since my primary interest within NRE is wildlife, I have helped widen my experience and knowledge with a minor in animal science. My interest in animals is purely wildlife, not livestock, which is why I chose NRE over Animal Science, but my minor has helped fill out my understanding in topics such as genetics and reproduction. My experience within the Animal Science minor has also allowed me to work with my dairy heifer, Leah, for a semester and show her in the Little I show! 

As a NRE student, I view my major as one that allows me to get hands-on with everything I am learning in a classroom, while preparing me for a future in wildlife research. I am interested in both animal behavior and human impacts on wildlife, and hope to educate the public on how to better improve the world for humanity and the species that coexist with us. The experiences I have gained have helped to shape my goals for the future, and have helped me expand my worldview. 

 

A Journey through Pathobiology

by Krysten Rose Holland

Sigma Alpha Sisters and I representing UConn’s chapter at a professional development Leadership Seminar.

Attending a large university was a great change for me, coming from a small all-girls high school. There were so many new opportunities available to me at UConn, particularly in the College of Agriculture, Health & Natural Resources (CAHNR), which is a smaller college within the very large university with a lot of academic and extracurricular support. Starting off pre-veterinary in animal science, I knew that I would have nothing short of excellent academic and professional preparation. Outside of the classroom, I decided to join a professional agriculturally-based sorority, Sigma Alpha. Through this organization, I became connected with many other students and was able to enhance my journey as a first-year university student in a field that I knew little about but wanted to explore–agriculture! Through the encouragement of my peers and advisors, I was able to try new things and discover different opportunities within the college. For example, I was encouraged to try participating in the annual Dairy Show and learn about dairy showmanship. To my surprise, I placed top in my showman class and among the top overall for fitting, which includes presentation of the animal!

Before entering college, I thought I was certain in what I wanted to do and what I wanted to study: animal science. My freshman year was a difficult transition, however, and I knew I wanted to explore my options. Through one of the Sigma Alpha sisters who was heavily involved in CAHNR activities, I was directed to talk to different academic advisors, one of which was Dr. Sandra Bushmich in Pathobiology and Veterinary Sciences (PVS). I wanted to switch my major to something that would involve laboratory preparation and focus on disease studies in order to broaden my experience in case I decided not to go into veterinary medicine. I learned that in studying PVS, I could change my concentration if I my interests changed and stay on track to graduate.

During my sophomore year, I decided to look into careers in human healthcare and public health. Although a veterinary path could be enormously rewarding, I did not necessarily know if I wanted to commit a large portion of my life and finances to a professional program when I did not know enough about the profession. Veterinary schools are among the most competitive graduate programs to get into, so the preparation in pre-veterinary studies requires a lot of dedication. I already faced a lot of stress adjusting to a new environment out of my home state.

Ultimately, I decided to pursue human healthcare. For that, I would need patient care experience. I enrolled in certified nurse’s aide programs in Massachusetts in the Greater Boston area and took night classes to earn a certificate to gain experience and make some money. Although during that time I considered myself on a pre-physician assistant route, I discovered that I loved the nursing model! From there, I decided to look into ABSN programs. Throughout the journey of navigating the healthcare field, I have worked in a wide variety of environments such as zebrafish research in Longwood Medical Center, personal care in client homes as a personal aide, managing medications at an assisted living facility, assisting doctors in facilitating patient appointments at a globally-renowned hospital, and then being promoted to a medical assistant in a private practice.  Although my experience in the field were out-of-state by my own initiation and ambition, my classes in PVS (and Allied Health Sciences [AHS], another department within CAHNR) put my experiences into perspective. I took a diagnostic medical techniques class within PVS where we extracted DNA and RNA and processed diagnostic tests, histological structure and function, which is basically anatomy and physiology based on slides, and a seminar in which various guest speakers from all over the world presented their research. In AHS, courses in medical terminology and counseling and teaching for the health professions helped enhance my knowledge and further my skills.

Pathobiology and Veterinary Science is a small, close-knit department and has a variety of classes and opportunities for research for undergraduates.  Due to the variety of interests that PVS can accommodate and great academic advisors willing to help me navigate the unknowns of career preparation, I did not fall behind in my studies and fulfilled requirements for programs that I explored throughout the my years as a PVS major.

 

 

Why the Pre-Veterinary Track May Not Be for You

By Justyna Cieslik

Do you love animals and want to work with them on a daily basis? Do you  love Animal Planet and enjoy watching celebrity veterinarians do their jobs? Do you want to help animals and make sure they aren’t in pain? Even if you answered “yes” to all of these questions, that just means you sound like every animal-loving student out there. So how do you really know if you want to be a veterinarian? Well, here’s how I, a lifelong animal lover, learned that being a veterinarian may not be the job for me after all.

Like many students in high school with an interest in animals, I considered becoming a veterinarian. I loved working with animals and had a passion for the medical field. I initially thought that by combining my two passions, it only made sense to be a veterinarian. However, like many, I did not do the research and relied simply on Animal Planet to learn about the profession. As senior year hit in high school, I had to make a major decision (literally). What was I going to study at college? What colleges would help me towards my dream job? Who was going to provide better financial aid so that when I take out loans to veterinary school, so I will not have too much debt? All of these questions and their answers are the reason I came to UConn. UConn was going to help me towards my goal by providing good financial aid and having resources that allowed me to work hands-on with animals. I was, however, a little naive about the job itself and all the prerequisites, so I began college will a false sense of hope.

As I met with my advisor at UConn, I came to the realization that the pre-vet track was much harder than I had ever expected. I knew being a vet was not a simple task, as they performed surgeries and were responsible for animals’ lives, but I was unaware of the realities of the preparation involved. When my advisor gave me a list of classes that I had to take in order to be considered for vet schools, and then the list of classes I had to take in order to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Animal Science, I lost my breath. The amount of organic chemistry, the extra math classes, the extra English courses, and all the biology requirements were extremely overwhelming. I came from a high school where I was in the top 10%, so it was not as if I did not know how to work hard, but I felt completely unprepared. On top of all of these course requirements, vet schools also expect you to be engaged in extracurricular activities, and most definitely get you feet wet in the profession through internships or work. I could not comprehend how all of this could be possible in just four years.

Now, I’m not saying all of this to get students who want to be vets afraid of not succeeding. The reason I provide all this information is so that people realize that becoming a vet requires specific rigors, many of which you may not have considered. The work load starts early on and only goes up as you get closer to your goal.

A lot of people also do not realize how many jobs there are in the animal field. Many people think that the only animal-related job is a veterinarian. That is a complete misunderstanding; there are hundreds of career paths you can chose if you want to work with animals. SOME of these jobs include: pet grooming services, veterinary technician, zoo curator, animal trainer, animal behaviorist, animal nutritionist. You could also conduct research, become a professor, run your own farm, doggie daycare, dog kennels, and more.

Some of the things I hope you learn from this are:

  1. Be passionate about what you do.
  2. It’s ok to change your career path.
  3. You can always go to school again.
  4. There are MORE animal related jobs than you think.
  5. Being a vet is not for everyone.

A Part of Something Greater

Working on the isolation of fatty acids from Arctic Greenland Killer Whale samples.
Working on the isolation of fatty acids from Arctic Greenland Killer Whale samples.

Two years ago, I began looking for research opportunities to get involved with. As a pre-veterinary student, I was looking for research experience to add to my resume. But unbeknownst to me, this opportunity opened my eyes to something bigger than just working in a laboratory. I now perceive the world in a different light and understand the importance of research. I have grown as an individual because of the knowledge I have attained.

When I inquired on the types of research professors at UConn are conducting came across a topic that really interested me. Dr. Melissa McKinney, an assistant professor in the Natural Resources Department, explained how she collects data to evaluate the anthropogenic effects on Killer Whale feeding habits and bio-accumulation of chemical contamination.

As a new student, I worked on an experiment that resulted in the isolation of fatty acids from blubber samples of killer whales and several other kinds of marine mammals, as well as samples from prey fish species. The measurement and comparison of fatty acids is a useful tool in obtaining the fatty acid profile of an individual animal. We can compare each individual’s profile and determine their food source. Due to global warming and Continue reading

What it’s like living with Emotional Support Dog at School

Jessica and ColbyIf you take a look around UConn’s campus you will find yourself running into at least one emotional support animal (ESA) whether you’re outside or not. UConn’s definition of a emotional support animal is any animal specifically designated by a medical provider that eases the symptoms of an individual’s disability. They are known to be as companion, therapeutic or assistance animals but are not actual service animals and don’t have the same privileges as them. An approved ESA owned by an individual who lives in the school’s housing is allowed within the private living accommodations.

My roommate Laura has an emotional support dog named Colby, who she raised from a pup. Being at school without Colby for the past three years was really difficult for her because her anxiety and depression only got worse as the semesters went by. By senior year, (2018-2019) she knew she needed to get her ESA on campus. She decided to reach out to her therapist who helped her by writing a letter to the Center of Disabilities (CSD). After reading through all her documentation, Reslife and CSD agreed that having Colby in the apartment would be a huge benefit to Laura. Reslife then asked all her roommates including me, to write them an email saying that we all agree to living with Colby, since we do have the living room and kitchen as a shared space. For some people, a dog coming into an apartment could be something negative for them just because some people don’t like animals, specifically dogs, but for me as someone who has lived with cats my entire life it was the start of some great. Others, don’t understand the responsibility that comes with having an ESA, especially during college. It’s the responsibility of making sure someone is at the apartment at all times, making sure they are walked to use the bathroom and picking up their “business” outside, and to make sure they are fed at their designated times. This responsibility can be a lot to handle especially during exams, midterms and even finals. Continue reading

How Agriculture Shaped Me into the Person I am Today

Ambassador Katy after conducting her last FFA meeting as Chapter President
Ambassador Katy after conducting her last FFA meeting as Chapter President

Agriculture has been a huge part of my life since I was in the 4th grade. I joined a local 4-H county, and had my own farm with three Nubian dairy goats. After 10 years of raising and showing dairy goats and dairy cattle, I look back and see how much of an impact agriculture made on my life. If you told me when I was 9 years old that I would be pursuing a career in the agricultural field, I would have thought you were kidding. Little did I know back then by joining 4-H and being influenced by agriculture would change my life.

Ambassador Katy and Desire, her first dairy cattle 4-H project at the local 4-H Fair
Ambassador Katy and Desire, her first dairy cattle 4-H project at the local 4-H Fair

I have been a member and advisor of my local 4-H county for 11 years, and 4-H has taught me about leadership, responsibility, and work ethic through agriculture. I raised and dairy goats and dairy cattle as my 4-H project on state and regional levels. Working with animals not only has taught me many valuable qualities for animal husbandry, but it has taught me the importance of agriculture as a whole. Another organization that is very similar to 4-H is the FFA. I joined FFA when I was in high school because the high school that I attended had an FFA chapter. By being an involved member, I learned more about the agriculture industry, and realized that my future career had to involve agriculture. Going through the agricultural program at my high school was very beneficial to me because I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in agriculture. I had always dreamed of being a teacher, I just never knew what subject I wanted to teach. I realized that being an agriculture educator was a very important career, and that has been my career path ever sense. When I started looking at different colleges to go to, I knew that only going to UConn would be the best choice for me. Continue reading