DCCC Students Care for NC Wildlife, Relocate Stingrays as Part of Zoo Internships

Jessica Burchard intern

July 22, 2013 – Whether it’s taking care of animals in water or on land, Zoo and Aquarium Science students at DCCC are gaining valuable hands-on experience while taking part in internships at various animal centers across North Carolina this summer. 

For instance, students Jessica Burchard and Charles Worley are both learning real-world career skills at each of their internships. Burchard is spending time with orphaned opossums, wild cougars and countless other animals as an intern at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, N.C., while Worley is getting his hands wet by working at the Natural Science Center of Greensboro, helping with the center’s newest popular attraction – the SciQuarium exhibit. 

As interns, both students are responsible for various duties to help care for the animals and maintain the exhibits. 

Burchard feeds, cleans and provides care for the animals, and also delivers medication, assists in habitat maintenance, updates the zoo’s database, and provides enrichment and rehabilitation to the animals.

Like Burchard, Worley helps with preparing diets for the animals and other various husbandry duties. But he also recently assisted with the relocation of 12 cownose stingrays and two southern stingrays from Camden, N.J., to the new SciQuarium exhibit.

“I have moved many aquariums and inhabitants throughout my aquarium years, but nothing compared to this move; it was truly an honor and a great experience,” Worley says. “I look forward to many more adventures like this.”

Charles Worley

“My coursework in the ZAS program has prepared me for this internship by helping me understand the dangers associated with working with exotic animals,” Worley says. “Bookwork and practices I’ve studied in the classroom have really assisted me as I care for these animals in a captive environment.”

Burchard agrees, noting that the internship program has provided remarkable experiences that she will be able to take with her in the future.

“The DCCC ZAS major has a very unique intern program, in that we don’t have to wait two years to see if we will use what we learned – we are able to take what we learn in class and apply it in the field the very next day at our internship,” says Burchard. “This makes what we learn in class very relevant, and that type of immediate feedback is one of the things I enjoy most about the program.”

Burchard has had the rare opportunity to work with unique animals not found in every zoo, including two Sicilian donkeys, white-tailed deer, baby opossums and even two cougars.

“I have had an unbelievable experience at the WNC Nature Center, and the staff has been so willing to share their knowledge and insight about working in a zoo,” says Burchard. “This internship has given me the opportunity to build my skill set and my confidence before applying for a full time zoo keeper position.”

Upon graduation, Burchard hopes to work in Alaska conducting field research on large marine mammals in that region. She also plans to one day work with African hoof stock, including rhinos, gazelles and other species on the African plains. Worley plans to work in the aquarium field upon graduation, and notes that this internship will help prepare him on how to care for larger scale aquariums.

*Editor’s Note: Pictured in the first photo is Jessica Burchard feeding a baby opossum at the Western North Carolina Nature Center. Pictured in the second photo is Charles Worley assisting Dennis Law, the SciQuarium curator. The two are clipping the tail barbs of a ray species 

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 celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. 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