A guest post by Ryann O’Carroll about her PSY 495 internship
After ‘completing’ my internship at Saco River Wildlife Center (SRWC), I reflected back on the “Student Learning Contract” I made at the beginning of the semester. The goals I outlined for myself focused on the job duties, expectations, what I hoped to gain, and how I would accomplish these goals throughout my internship. The following is what I conducted at my internship:
This position allowed for me to explore areas that concern wildlife and wildlife rehabilitation. I also had the opportunity to learn more about various scientific fields, including wildlife biology, animal behavior, wildlife ecology, animal husbandry, and veterinary science. I gained more experience in these fields by handling and coming in close proximity with wildlife species, such as raccoons, opossums, foxes, bats, squirrels, and much more. I also gained more knowledge about the various species’ diets, habitats, and conservation needs. Daily duties included hand-feeding baby mammals, monitoring animal conditions, habitat maintenance, administering medications (if needed), preparing food, laundry, and cleaning.
Reflecting back on this, this internship allowed me to handle (most species) and work in close proximity with raccoons, skunks, porcupines, opossums, woodchucks, fisher cats, foxes, coyotes, bats, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. It also allowed me to explore the field of wildlife rehabilitation much more closely. I found that as I progressed through my internship and I made more connections with the people working there, such as my supervisors – Beth Brown and Kevin Peterson – and two other volunteers, I was able to gain more knowledge in different fields, such as the behavioral aspects of the species I am working with, the ecological backgrounds of each species, how to care for each of these species individually, and how release techniques work for each species (I have not helped release an animal yet). While at the internship I was able to learn more about each species individual diet and the appropriate nutrition they need, how to clean each enclosure, clean dishes, do laundry, and monitor the species’ conditions.
This is what I was fully expecting to do at the beginning of this internship, and I was very pleased with how much hands-on experience I got to have at this internship as well with the various species we had. I also expected to gain more knowledge and experience within the field of wildlife rehabilitation, and this is exactly what my internship did for me. From this internship, my goal was to gain more experience and knowledge as I have just stated previously, and to work hands-on with different species to expand my experience even more. I was able to accomplish these goals by being responsible, reliable, efficient, passionate, and dedicated to going to my internship each week, excited to learn and work more each time I went. This internship provided me with an opportunity I will never forget, something I will carry with me as I continue working towards my career goals and aspirations.
Skills I had hoped to learn at this internship were assessing incoming animals for injury, diseases, and dietary needs based off their age, properly cleaning and sterilizing equipment, toys, laundry, and dishes, feeding animals based off of their dietary needs, cleaning both inside and outside enclosures, providing enrichment for animals to aid in their release, and using proper PPE and safety equipment for my own, other’s, and the animal’s safety. These skills are all ones I have gained and worked on effectively throughout my time at my internship, being able to work closely with each species and giving them specific nourishment, enrichment, and care. Some of these skills are ones I already had due to working with so many different animals since being in high school, and others are ones I was able to easily pick up on. The skills I brought to this internship were sticking with a task until it’s done (persistence), thinking before I act, listening with understanding and empathy, thinking flexibly, good communication skills, working well and thoroughly with others and individually, being determined and motivated to accomplish the job asked of me, being responsible and accountable, and being able to apply my past experiences and knowledge to strengthen my passion, desire, and expertise for this field. With the skills I brought to this internship, along with the ones I had learned, I feel these skills were all accomplished and what made this internship such a great experience for me. Working in an environment that is always busy and has a variety of people coming in is a lot to walk into, especially when you do not know anyone else. Despite this, I was able to use these skills and learn others as I went along to accomplish what was asked of me at this internship and to make connections with others while working there.
I had planned to work at SRWC for the whole spring semester. Due to COVID-19, my internship was cut short. SRWC was a place I found to be de-stressing, relaxing, and enjoyable for me to go to as it is doing something I love and am passionate about. Once COVID-19 is over with, I am hoping to go and visit at SRWC because of the great connections and experiences I received from there. All in all, I would say the Student Learning Contract I created at the beginning of this internship was thoroughly fulfilled by meeting the goals, skills, and timeline I had addressed in it.
Having done this internship, I am going to continue with my future career goals and aspirations by starting a new internship at Maine Wildlife Park for the summer of 2020, which will focus on me developing novel enrichment techniques for the species at the park. I will also get to work in close proximity and have some hands-on experience with species there as well, which will in turn enhance my experience and expertise in the field of wildlife rehabilitation and conservation. I am hoping to discuss a possible job position with the supervisor at Maine Wildlife Park as I have a good connection with them as well from interning at SRWC; both of supervisors have brought animals needing rehabilitation to and from one another and have known one another for years. This internship turned into something much more than just an internship. SRWC is a place I was able to learn and gain more experience, enhance my expertise in the field, form strong connections and relationships with people there, and broaden my horizons to new work or internship opportunities I had not thought about before.
Our thanks to Ryann for sharing her experience with us. All Animal Behavior majors complete at least one internship, PSY 495, as part of their degree and work closely with a faculty supervisor as part of the experience. For more information about the animal behavior major at UNE, please visit: https://www.une.edu/cas/psych/bs-animal-behavior