AquaLife Club- Get Your Fish On! Plus tips for keeping your pet Betta happy and healthy

Aquarium“No pets except for a 10 gallon fish tank.” For many UConn students this was a sad thing to see when first going through your housing requirements. The thought of leaving fluffy the bunny or max the dog at home is almost too much for some students. Even for me, an animal science major, the thought of not being able to bring my collection of feathery and scaled creatures was daunting. But I wasn’t too nervous, as setting up and running different aquariums had been a hobby of mine for many years. So much so that I decided to capitalize on UConn’s pet rules by starting a club that educates students about the aquarium hobby by building its presence on campus. By October of freshman year I was submitting my constitution and other required paperwork for my new organization. Not much later AquaLife club was born with a stellar executive board made up of a few of my recently made friends and none other but Dr. Steven Zinn, the head of of the Animal Science Department, as our advisor.

Aqua-Life Club LogoIn the past semester our club has grown into a fully functioning student organization with almost 30 active members, weekly meetings, and our first fish tank project on the schedule. One of the main goals of the club I hoped to achieve when I first formed it was to install and maintain aquarium of different kinds around campus. Almost like the Animal Planet show Tanked but on a smaller scale. I thought the tanks could help with stress relief on an already hectic campus, as fish are proven to help calm humans and ease anxiety, all while increasing knowledge of the hobby. Our first tank will be a 29 gallon freshwater community tank and will be placed in the Animal Science Department.

I’m hoping AquaLife club will continue to grow and long outlive my career at UConn. It’s a great example that at UConn you can start a student organization from nothing if you have the passion for it and it is not already offered. Continue reading

Heels Down. Chin Up. – How Horseback Riding Impacted My Life (For the Better)

Hanging out before our practice with Dennis at the 2012 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL.
Hanging out before our practice with Dennis at the 2012 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL.

As a 10 year old girl in middle school I decided to finally “grab the reins” in fueling my horse obsession and begin taking horseback riding lessons. Ten and a half years later, I would have never thought that I’d be riding and competing at a collegiate level. Throughout those years spent at the barn I’ve learned many things that have shaped me into the person I am today. It all began in 6th grade, when I would clean horse stalls three days a week as a trade for riding lessons. While my friends were socializing, I stayed at the barn so I could work for as many lessons as possible. If I wanted something, I would have to work for it. I’ve learned to apply this lesson to many aspects of my life, for example, getting good grades, being accepted to college, and getting a job. I feel that life is very easy (and boring) when things get handed to you all the time; but working hard and earning something makes the results that much better.

Riding also instilled in me the 2 P’s: patience and practice. There’s a saying “if you’re not a humble person, your horse will make you one;” truer words have never been said. Horses help prove to every rider that when something goes wrong, 99% of the time it’s the riders fault. At first I would think, “I fell off because my horse twisted the wrong way” rather than “I fell off because my leg was WAY out of position.” Nobody made me fall off but myself. I try my best to apply this same concept to my life in general. Got a bad grade? It’s not the teacher’s fault. I just need to study harder. Didn’t get the job I wanted? I need to think about what I can do to improve myself in order to be a better candidate. Learning to stay humble and exercising my Continue reading

Gators and Tigers and Kids, Oh My!

Fred and I after the Crocodiles and Alligators presentation
Fred and I after the Crocodiles and Alligators presentation

If there were one word to describe the summer of 2015 for me, it would be “unexpected.” I never anticipated the degree to which my internship at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo would positively impact my life.

I had known of the zoo’s summer internships since the spring of 2014. However, I didn’t apply until this past winter with the help of a good friend and fellow applicant. We both applied for the Animal Care and Education internships. The Animal Care internship allows interns to indirectly work with the animals (categorized as Predator, Hoofstock, Farmyard, or Rainforest) through tasks such as diet preparation and feeding, enrichment, and some training. The Education internship entails caring for the education animals (reptiles, rodents, small mammals, and birds). It also includes activities such as conducting on-site presentations to school children and educational talks at the zoo.

Me practicing proper alligator restraint with Fred
Me practicing proper alligator restraint with Fred

Ultimately, I was selected for a more flexible Volunteer Office internship. Although this unexpected decision was disappointing at the time, it would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. This internship was only 2 days per week, which allowed me the extra time needed to succeed in my Physics summer classes. My main responsibility was to stand at various animal exhibits and present about the respective animal to the public, utilizing satchels that contained fact sheets about the animals and “bone clone” model skulls. Later in the summer I assisted with Zoo Patrol. In this one-week program, children ages 6-14 hear zoo keeper talks, receive behind the scenes tours and hands on learning, animal enrichment activities, and participate in games and crafts. I also was able to learn about Predator and Rainforest diet preparation through my friends in the Animal Care internship. Finally, I had the privilege of learning one method of alligator restraint with Rainforest Reptile Shows (Fred, the alligator I am pictured with, was part of a roadside “zoo” for many years and was only fed hot dogs, causing him to develop metabolic bone disease. With the care of Rainforest Reptile Shows, he is now healthy and well). Continue reading

Man. Line. Ball – UConn Polo

The entire atmosphere is a buzz of excitement, but all I can hear are the thundering hooves of my horse and loud beating of my heart. I race toward the ball at a gallop and overtake the player nearest to me and score a goal as time runs down to zero. This is UConn Polo.

I have been playing the sport of polo since my junior year in high school at UConn. When I decided to go to UConn it was only fitting that I try-out for the team and become an Intercollegiate player. I absolutely love this sport. It is fast-paced, action-packed and very rewarding. I have been lucky enough to start in the polo program at UConn and work my way up through the levels. Throughout my time playing polo at UConn, I have been able to ride some very talented horses and be a part of the closely knit group that is UConn Polo.

UConn recently hosted the Intercollegiate Polo Regionals from March 20th – March 22nd and it was a great success. There were four Intercollegiate Men’s Teams that competed and three Intercollegiate Women’s Teams that competed. The UConn Women made it to the finals and played against the Cornell Women. It was an exhilarating game with Cornell coming out with the win at the end of the fourth chukker. The UConn Women fought back a five goal deficit in the last chukker to come within two goals in the final score. Even though we did not win Intercollegiate Regionals, we learn from our mistakes and will always be ready for the next match! Intercollegiate Nationals will be held at UConn’s very own Horsebarn Hill Arena this year from April 7th – April 11th. Come support our team and see how the game of polo is played!

Polo Horses                          UConn Polo Players

Reconsidering the Pre-Vet Track

When people hear you want to work with animals, most reply with “so you want to be a vet?”  Somehow we have been led to believe that becoming a veterinarian is the only way to work with animals as a professional. As I write this entry, I can sit back and be glad that I never hit that “send” button on my vet school application. What I am doing now is much better suited to my personality, learning style, and interests than veterinary medicine ever could be. I am a graduate student at Purdue University in Animal Behavior and Welfare, and I’m loving every minute of it!

Sunrise at the Pig Farm
Sunrise at the Pig Farm

Graduate School is a pleasant change from undergrad when it comes to classes. Undergrad classes, especially those in the sciences, have a tendency for dependence on rogue memorization and learning facts. While that may be necessary when developing knowledge on a certain topic, it was not my favorite way to learn. I prefer the analytical style of graduate school classes. I am no longer simply learning information, but analyzing what things mean and how research findings can be applied in theory and principle. For the most part, this also means less homework and tests, and more of a focus on understanding and analysis.

I also prefer the way time is split in graduate school compared to undergrad. When I applied to Purdue, I was lucky enough to get a research assistantship, meaning I spend half of my time in class and the other half doing research. In undergrad I had to spend most of my time studying, and on an awkward schedule around when I had other classes. Now, because I spend half of my time in research, I only have to take 2 classes per semester. Not only does this Continue reading

Into the Wild, and Out of My Comfort Zone

Bouncing up and down on a game vehicle at five A.M.  looking for lions and giraffes was a normal South African morning for me for three weeks. One day I was sitting in the middle of a herd of thirty or more elephants and observing their social behavior as they too were observing us. Watching the babies show off their oversized ears and trunks was amusing as they marched towards the vehicle with attitude. Toni in South AfricaTo be in the presence of protected animals like the rhino was spectacular. Even though they are larger than a game vehicle they spend most of the day hidden in the African bush. Searching for leopards and lions was hard but rewarding when they came out from hiding. To be feet away from the king of the jungle with him tolerating the flashes of cameras was an experience in itself. Being able to experience animals up close in their natural habitats was educational. We even went to wildlife sanctuaries to learn more about species from a closer view. Students were rewarded with a ride from an African elephant, came nose to nose with a hyena, and got close and personal with a cheetah.  All of these animals are used to educate the public, whom unfortunately don’t know much about their native species. I learned so much from this experience and never thought I would have traveled so far.

Before applying to college I was not open to much change. It was terrifying thinking about pursuing a degree at an institution far from home. UConn was the best choice I made since great opportunities such as the South Africa program are offered. Three weeks away and a sixteen hour flight was unsettling to me, but Continue reading

UConn IDEA Grant

Katelyn in the Lab
Working in Dr. Kristen Govoni’s laboratory in the Department of Animal Science

In August 2013, I had just begun a time-consuming and costly project in my research laboratory and I began investigating ways to fund this research. I was reading the Daily Digest, and by chance stumbled upon an advertisement for an information session for the newly developed UConn IDEA Grant. After reading the description, I was hesitant to attend because it appeared to be geared more towards new business or invention ideas. However, it did mention a traditional research project, so I attended the informational session. At this session I learned that the IDEA Grant was a two stage process in which during the first semester long stage one completes a short online course to refine his/her project and in the second stage, during the following semester or summer, one works on his/her project. I was encouraged to apply as the program had just broadened to include tradition scientific research projects such as my own.

I turned in the grant for my project entitled The effects of poor maternal nutrition on liver development in lambs and awaited the committee’s decision. Fortunately I was chosen to be a part of the second cohort for the IDEA Grant. While I was excited that I had been awarded the grant, I was apprehensive at first about the attached online class I had to complete in the spring, I already had a full course load that semester. However, the online class ended up being extremely beneficial Continue reading

UConn: the Land of Opportunity

A very wise manager and professor at UConn always tells me, “UConn is the land of opportunity.” This is true, UConn has many opportunities and so many connections. It’s up to us as students to see the endless possibilities that UConn offers and to take advantage of them.

Cocoa and Jersey
Cocoa and Jersey


The spring semester of my sophomore year I took an independent study with a professor at UConn. The independent study was an extension outreach with 4H in which I ran stations at different 4H events. I mainly worked with kids 8 to 18 years old. I taught the kids about the pricing of different horse related items and the different markings on the horses’ legs. I really enjoyed teaching them. It was also very rewarding to see how much the kids loved learning. In this independent study I also got to help run and prepare for different shows at UConn, for example Continue reading