Jacqueline Hulina is a junior majoring in biology with a pre-veterinary emphasis. She completed a three month animal care internship during the summer of 2011 at the Wildlife Science Center, a non-profit research and conservation education facility in Columbus, MN.
Ever since I was a little girl I had somewhat of an obsession with wolves - even though I used to be so afraid of dogs that I wouldn't set a foot on the ground. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get to wake up to the sound of wolves howling next door. My animal care internship was the single most amazing and self-defining experience in my life. I was first introduced to the WSC by taking the Wolf and Lynx Ecology J-term course. During my time there, I learned how to care for wolves, lynx, bears, cougars, raptors and various other northern Minnesotan predators. Additionally, I received somewhat of a crash course in dog behavior, as the WSC staff incidentally includes a pack of rescued dogs. Each day all of the interns would complete basic animal care first - basically we would fill waters, clean pens, process roadkill deer, and feed the animals. After the regular tasks were completed, we worked on special projects that included anything from repairing a fence to assisting the staff in hand-raising wolf pups. We also participated in a year-long research study assessing the accuracy of radio-isotope testing, which meant collecting muscle tissue and hair samples from all of our roadkill deer - not exactly something they teach in the suburbs where I grew up.
During my last week, we were allowed to sit in on a training day for USDA wildlife services in which the staff taught how to capture, sedate, and take blood samples from a group of captive wolves. It gave me a taste of what it would be like to collect data out in the field, not just in some biology lab. My favorite aspect of the internship was that everything we did there was guided by a notion of biological relevance and ethical concerns about the environment rather than simply focusing on one species. Though we concentrated primarily on predators, my internship gave me a much clearer idea of how conservation ecology plays into where I want to go with my career. It allowed me to make personal connections with people in the field that can help guide me. Most of all, my internship challenged me to become a stronger, more ethically concerned, and self-motivated individual.