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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Thompsonville, Illinois, USA

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Thompsonville, Illinois, USA
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Registered: December 2017
City/Town/Province: Greenville
Posts: 1
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Meeko and Ophelia were the best of friends, inseparable playmates. Oksanna was a bit older than most of the others, loved to show her younger friends around. Jasper was a troublemaker, always getting into things and following you around, but it was impossible to stay mad at him. Louie was pretty shy at first, but once he got comfortable around you, he was the sweetest little guy you'd find. Pete had an old soul, and nothing could disturb his steady calm. Chuck, or Chuckles as we called him, refused to let you leave without a hug. These were some of the individuals I had the pleasure of working with over the summer, and all of them were wild animals.
Over the summer of 2017, I worked as an unpaid intern at Second Nature Wildlife Rehabilitation, a wildlife rehab center in Thompsonville, Illinois. We accepted orphaned, injured, or ill wildlife, providing care and treatment until they were ready to return to the wild. I was the only intern for the majority of the summer, and the only staff other than the director herself, meaning I was intimately involved in every aspect of the center, from attending to our animals to managing our volunteers.
The majority of my work this summer was providing daily care for all of our animals. Whether it was providing bottles for nursing animals, cutting fruit and filling pans for the others, delivering food to outside animals, or cleaning enclosures, providing the basic essentials was a full time job in and of itself. But the work didn't end there. Throughout the summer, our animals needed medical treatment for a number of different conditions. Some animals came to us in rough shape, requiring us to administer fluids or medication for injuries. Others became sick during their time at the center. Towards the end of the summer, we suffered an outbreak of E. coli, and in an effort to combat it we attempted a variety of treatments. Some medications, such as a probiotic, were administered orally. Others, such as another antibiotic, were administered via subcutaneous injection. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, almost all of the raccoons who came down with sickness passed away, nearly a dozen in total. However, there were some who recovered, and it was a joy to see them return to strength and health.
In addition to caring for the animals directly, I also needed to ensure a quality environment for raising the animals. Before our animals could be moved from the nursery to an outdoors enclosure, I had to ensure the enclosure was in acceptable condition to provide a safe and comfortable living space. For the raccoons in particular, this involved setting up nest boxes, swings, sticks for climbing, and pools for their enjoyment. There were also a number of repairs that I needed to make over the summer. As one example, our squirrel/opossum enclosure had holes in the wiring that needed to be patched up. I also needed to fix the roof on one of our raccoon enclosures to prevent leakage when it rained.
While much of the work was done simply by myself and Pam, there were some volunteers who came to assist us. When these volunteers arrived, it was often up to me to provide instruction and leadership. A number of brand new volunteers came to help, and when they did, I was responsible for showing them how to perform all necessary tasks and guiding them through the daily routines. Even when we had experienced volunteers, they soon began looking to me for leadership, as our needs and responsibilities changed through the summer as new animals came in and new conditions developed.
My responsibilities at Second Nature also involved working with the public to foster greater understanding of and care for wildlife. We often received calls from people seeking advice for how to handle various wildlife situations, seeking humane solutions for nuisance wildlife or attempting to ascertain whether or not an animal required care. When someone called to report a seemingly abandoned baby, we were often able to talk them through a reunite, enabling the baby to be returned to its mother. There was one time when the call came from someone just down the street, meaning I was able to set up the reunite myself. We left the baby raccoon out overnight (with the proper setup), and by the next morning his mother had returned to take him away. As part of our effort to help educate the public, we visited the children at a free lunch program over the summer, taking some of our permanent resident animals along for the children to meet. While Pam gave her presentation about the animals, I took them around for the children to see up close, meaning I got to see their eyes light up at the opportunity to see an opossum and raccoon up close. When a nearby hospital was having problems with raccoons getting into the dumpsters, they were put in contact with us, and after a few calls, Pam and I visited the hospital to discuss their plans for raccoon-proofing the dumpsters without resorting to traps and animal control.
Some could argue that, in the grand scheme of things, returning some raccoons or opossums to the wild makes no difference. They're not endangered or even vulnerable, would losing a few really be that bad? From a purely objective perspective, the answer might be no. The ecosystem will survive if a few raccoons don't return, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to gain from providing care. If I learned anything from my summer at Second Nature, it's that there is always value in protecting those in need, regardless of species. The majority of animals admitted to our care came to us as a result of human actions: setting a live trap that caught the wrong animal, cutting down trees and hitting a nest of baby raccoons in the process, hitting a mother on the road and finding babies still alive. Humans, more than any other animal, have the ability to shape the world around us, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. When our actions cause harm to others, it is our responsibility to make things right. And even when things are going well, it remains our responsibility to further progress in the right direction. As a wildlife rehabber, I was able to raise and nurture young animals in need of our help, and through interactions with the public, I was able to spread awareness of the issues facing wildlife and share my love for animals with others. Looking to the future, I hope to continue to create a world were all, human or animal, can continue to live and thrive.
Currently, I am a junior at University of South Carolina. I am majoring in biology and environmental science, and I intend to pursue a career in wildlife biology. The foundation for my appreciation of nature was laid during my time in Boy Scouts, and by the time I reached the rank of Eagle Scout, my outdoor experiences ranged from caving in Tennessee to backpacking in Philmont, New Mexico. Throughout college, my courses have taught me much about wildlife and the environment, and I was able to add to my classroom experiences by completing a research project on water quality in the Congaree with Dr. Sara Rothenberg last fall. The summer before last, I completed my first internship at Hollywild Animal Park, where I provided care for the park's animals alongside the animal staff. Through volunteering as a leader with a local middle school youth group and founding a men's Bible study ministry at the University, I have been able to further develop leadership abilities that will be helpful in my career. I believe these experiences, in addition to my time at Second Nature, have strongly prepared me for future work as a wildlife biologist, but I intend to continue my career development through additional internships and, most likely, grad school. Recognition from the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative would allow me to maximize the time I spent with Second Nature and enhance my ability to pursue additional opportunities to learn more about the natural world.
Date: December 31, 2017 Views: 3272 File size: 18.2kb, 930.5kb : 2207 x 1655
Hours Volunteered: 1,000
Volunteers: 8
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 20, 11 to 25
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