DCCC Student First to Spot Baby Antelope at NC Zoological Park as Part of Hands-On Internship Experience

Dec. 17, 2012 – Not many can say they’ve had experiences like Stacey Williams, a second year student in the Zoo and Aquarium Science program at Davidson County Community College. Williams, who had the opportunity to get to know the wildlife at the North Carolina Zoological Park during a very hands-on internship, was the first to spot a newborn sitatunga – a type of antelope – during her time at the zoo.

It was one of the most exciting experiences for her during the internship, a requirement for the unique program offered at DCCC.

“The zoo called me and let me know that a calf was born,” Williams says. “I was the first person to spot it. It was such a tiny baby. … I was the first person to hold it; I picked him up, held him to give him vaccines and check him out. … That was the coolest experience I ever had. I also got to name him; I called him ‘Captain America.’”

That served as just one of many unique experiences Williams received as a zookeeper intern on the African Plains rotation, where she worked regularly with seven white rhinos, and six different species of more than 60 antelope.

“I was involved in daily animal husbandry, cleaning the areas, feeding them, performing health checks and more,” she says.

Williams, who is one of 37 students enrolled in the Zoo and Aquarium Science program, says her internship gave her a great deal of experience with behind-the-scenes work at the zoo – especially in the African Plains region, an area which she loved. The internship also provided her with a great real-world experience that she can take with her when she begins her career.

Williams says that the experience of being part of the antelope birth was not only thrilling, but it also gave her a great deal of confidence in her abilities to work with animals.

“The zoo trusted me enough to do that,” Williams says. “I was very fortunate to get that kind of experience.”

Without question, she knows she’s selected the right career path. In fact, Williams says she knew she wanted to be a part of the program when DCCC held a career fair at Ledford High School, where she graduated.

“I knew I wanted to work with animals since I was a little kid,” Williams says. “I grew up around a rescue farm where we took in a lot of animals to help people. We took in horses, pigs, dogs, and we rehabilitated possums and raccoons … As soon as I saw the program as a sophomore in high school, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

And her coursework in the Zoo and Aquarium Science program has played a key role in helping her understand animal habitats and history, learning about zoo management and species survival plans, and how all of the zoos in the country work together. She also learned how to give informative keeper talks and more.

“Gaining that knowledge is especially helpful,” Williams says. “I enjoy telling people about animals; I gave keeper talks at the zoo any time I could.”

Williams completed internships during previous semesters at the Natural Science Center in Greensboro, the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, and the Duke Lemur Center, also in Durham, and is set to spend her final semester back at the NC Zoo, where she’ll work in Cyprus Swamp with alligators, cougars, amphibians, frogs, turtles, snakes and more.

She hopes to secure a job as a keeper following her completion of the program in the spring. Eventually, she says, she may return to school to get a bachelor’s degree to further her animal education.

“I’ve had experiences that have made me very well-rounded,” Williams says. “That’s what is so great about this program. The many opportunities I’ve had in learning to work with new people and new animals have helped prepare me for what’s next. I have a lot of references thanks to my internships.”

*Editor’s Note: Pictured is DCCC student Stacey Williams with “Stan” the white rhino. Williams, who is under 5-feet-tall, finds joy in working with all animals – even big ones such as rhinos.

Founded in 1963, Davidson County Community College is noted for its quality educational programs and services. As one of 58 institutions within the North Carolina Community College System, DCCC offers studies in more than 50 degree programs. A fully-accredited, multi-campus college, DCCC will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013. It is committed to developing minds, inspiring imaginations, and preparing students for enhanced career and educational opportunities within a changing global environment. Visit Davidson County Community College on the Web at davidsonccc.edu.