Posts Tagged ‘Volunteer’

The Grand Finale

by | April 19th, 2013

Eight months ago, I contacted Oakland Zoo with interest in learning more about the organization and inquired about a possible internship for the spring semester. Through much consideration and work on both ends, I was officially offered and accepted an internship opportunity with the Marketing Department at Oakland Zoo. I was absolutely thrilled to leave the Arizona desert and excited to head out to the Bay Area for this internship.

My internship began in January and lasted fifteen weeks. Coming into this position, I was absolutely terrified. I had no idea what 75% of my tasks were, how I was going to complete them, or what it would be like out of my comfort zone in a new place and new position. To my surprise, and thanks to many great mentors, I succeeded in all my tasks and learned so much about the professional world, and many lessons on a personal level as well.

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In the past fifteen weeks, I have learned so much about the organization including: marketing, branding, public relations, events, development, education, and the overall daily operations of what it takes to create an award-winning destination in the Bay Area. The main goal of this internship was to prepare me for my career in Nonprofit Management and Special Events and it has definitely catered to that purpose, but this opportunity has allowed me to grow in many ways and experience so much.

I wish I had better words to sum things up, but I am so grateful for this opportunity and feel so blessed to have been a part of this organization for the past fifteen weeks. I have met some great people, done some really amazing things, and developed so much as a young professional and individual.

Thank you to everyone who has played a role in this experience, including those of you reading this blog. My time at Oakland Zoo may be coming to an end (for now), but no one will be able to take away the lessons, memories, and friendships I have made while here. I will greatly miss Oakland Zoo and the Zoo family (including the humans), but plan on supporting the Zoo from afar for many years to come.

Week Fourteen and Going Green

by | April 16th, 2013

This was an exciting and packed week. I started the week off by shadowing more of the Education Department; this time for ZooSchool. I caught a ride from a colleague so that I could attend the morning meeting in the Education Department. Even though it wasn’t my department and I didn’t know much of what was being discussed, it was still a learning experience to sit in on their staff meeting. Everyone was super nice and Chantal, the Assistant Manager of Volunteer Services, (who approved this shadow opportunity) is an absolute sweetheart and made sure everyone knew who I was and vice versa. It was a great atmosphere right out of the gate and I really appreciate the hospitality and kindness everyone has shown me in my time here.

Once the morning staff meeting concluded, I waited with Jen, a part-time Education Specialist for the Zoo, and shadowed2013-04-10 11.07.29 her as she taught and led a local school class in ZooSchool. This was a step up from the ZooCamp I attended a week prior. The main difference was the age group. ZooCamp was kindergarten age and the ZooSchool I was a part of was made up of third graders.

How it worked: Once the class arrived, Jen and I met them and then led them to one of the classrooms in the Education Foyer, where Jen then taught the class about biomes, habitats, animals, and adaptations. Next, the kids were given clipboards with two different habitat scenes, in which their task was to write down five animals from those specified habitats in the Zoo and note a few of their unique adaptations. Even though I am not a third grader, I still learned so much from Jen and greatly enjoyed how ZooSchool was operated.

After ZooSchool concluded, I headed back up to Marketing and went with my supervisor, Nicky, to assist with an on-site film shoot. At the end of the day, I was invited to attend a Conservation ZooMobile happening the next day, so I received approval and joined in on the fun again. This education event was taking place off-site at the Castro Valley Library. This was yet another fantastic program that Oakland Zoo puts on. The Docents were fabulous with the kids/audience and they had great presentations and information prepared for the hour session. Again, I learned so much and was so impressed with this outreach education program that the Zoo does.

EarthDay13Next up on the list was Earth Day Earth Day Earth Day! I attended the final planning meeting for Earth Day with my cohorts, took care of last minute prep items, and then came ready for the event on Saturday. It was a great turnout of Zoo visitors, volunteers, and outside conservation and animal related organizations. There was so much to do while walking through the Zoo, with heaps of hands-on learning activities for people of all ages. It was very rewarding for me to see the amount of people and activities around the Zoo for our Earth Day event, especially after playing a role in planning the past three months. Interacting with all of the different people and organizations, and being of assistance to others was also a highlight of working Earth Day. In addition, I have to admit, being dressed in head-to-toe khaki, with a radio on my hip, made me feel like quite the official Zoo employee. It’s the little things, folks. That sums up week fourteen and going green. Stay tuned for my final week as the Marketing Intern at Oakland Zoo.

Weeks Nine and Ten of a Marketing Intern

by | March 25th, 2013

As you may have noticed, things have definitely been picking up around the Zoo. Blog posts about my internship experience have been put on the back burner, but not forgotten. The past two weeks have been full of every day marketing type tasks such as writing and distributing press releases. The job doesn’t end once these stories get sent out however. For meerkat crowdexample, the meerkat pups were announced and for a few days, Nicky (Marketing/PR, Senior Manager) and I were busy responding to calls, emails, and visits for pictures and videos of the meerkats that media wanted to share with their network. In fact, The Huffington Post and Good Morning America even called about sharing Oakland Zoo’s baby meerkats. That is exciting and rare for us to get that kind of exposure. The power of media is amazing.

In addition, I have been handling Earth Day e-mails and other related tasks. The main focus right now has been securing outside participant groups to attend the event (happening on Saturday, April 13, 10:00am-3:00pm). It has been rewarding to have participants say ‘yes’ and sign up to table at Earth Day, whether they are returning participants or new comers. I have also been updating the spreadsheet as responses come through.

I was able to attend the weekly marketing department meeting that I haven’t been to in a few weeks and found it very beneficial on many levels. It is great to discuss projects, set goals, and overall catch up on pertinent things that are going on within the organization and with my surrounding department/team.

Other daily agenda items have consisted of calendar listings on the website, other website concerns, follow up with media contracts and agreements, and of course, social media activity. A new social media platform for Oakland Zoo is being explored and is in the process of being created by yours truly, so stay tuned for that.

All that aside, probably one of the most valuable parts of the past two weeks as an intern, were the lessons I learned, on a work level, as well as on a personal level. A situation happened at work that caught me off guard. It challenged my view and made me take a step back to think through some things, but served as an excellent eye opening moment. I handled everything the best I could with what knowledge and experience I had, but I also used the opportunity to seek guidance from those around me. I am in a very lucky position to have many experienced professionals working around me that I feel comfortable going to for advice. I heard some of the same key points from all of them, but also different suggestions, all of which I found reassuring and uplifting. It was a tough lesson to grasp, but one that needed to be learned as a young professional new to the career world.

In addition to expanding a skill set in an internship, learning life and work related lessons are substantial to the growth of any individual. Skills and knowledge can take me far in life, but lessons and experience is what will prepare me for the next challenge that arises, which will aid in my overall success as a professional and individual.

One Month at the Zoo

by | February 6th, 2013

One month in already? Could it be? It’s true; I wrapped up another exciting week as the Marketing Intern at the Oakland Zoo. This past week I worked on putting together talking points for a shoot with CBS 5, promoted our Living Social deal through our social media platforms (which sold out), spent a lot of time learning how to use Vocus, wrote and released a press release (with much help), and even learned a few Photoshop skills.

I spent two days out of the office and on Zoo grounds assisting with our training video project and a video shoot with CBS 5. I continued to learn a lot about media and how it all works behind-the-scenes. I greatly enjoyed those two days, being outdoors in this beautiful Zoo, and visiting each animal exhibit. It also allowed me to meet many other Zoo staff and network with local media professionals.

Nicky and Amber also took time out of their day to sit down and go over objectives with me and have greatly assisted in making those become achievable. For example, one objective of mine is to help with events taking place at the Zoo, so I was able to attend and provide input at the first Earth Day committee meeting and will continue to be involved leading up to the ‘day of’ in April.

Another goal that I expressed is to experience more animal encounters. To my surprise, the next day I found myself on a sixteen foot platform hand feeding the giraffes! I had so much fun and loved being that close with the animals. It was a great week being around the animals and out on Zoo grounds with film crews. I’m learning so many different things, keeping busy, and still have three months of experience to gain.

Stepping Through ZAM: Day 1, Children’s Zoo Module

by | October 13th, 2011



Franette Armstrong, volunteer and soon-to-be-docent, is journaling her progress through Zoo Ambassador Training


Tonight has finally arrived, after three months of waiting for my Zoo Ambassador Training course to begin. Twenty-five other Oakland Zoo volunteers and I will be taking classes twice a week to learn everything needed to be docents in the Children’s Zoo. This ZAM course lasts six weeks. In January there is a ZAM course for the Savannah area followed by one for the Rainforest. I intend to take all three.

I thought you’d like to step through the training along with me to see if it is something you might want to do some day. I hope you learn a little of what we’re being taught in the process.

The Real Purpose of Zoos

This first week is introductory and volunteers who have taken the other courses don’t have to come until next week. We Newbies, though, need to learn a little bit about zoos in general and how animals are classified by scientists so we’ll  have a framework to put all the new information in.

Newbies and experienced volunteers are taking our class along with docents back for more training.


Did you know that zoos started out as private menageries — collections of animals by wealthy people with huge estates. Then these owners began opening up their land to visitors for a fee and that started it all.

Entertainment or Recreation? But early zoos…and some even today…had a very different philosophy about what they were there for. Entertainment was their chief goal, so they made bears wear tutus and elephants prance around on their back legs—basically making them be more like human performers than the natural animals they were.

In more recent decades, modern zoos came to realize that animals should be allowed to be animals and people should come to zoos for recreation—active involvement—rather than passive entertainment. Now, the “good” zoos, about 200 in the U.S., all have to meet strict accreditation standards set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, plus pass inspections by the USDA.

Docents in training at Oakland Zoo

Recreation is actually a side benefit of zoos: The most important missions are conservation, education and research.

So today our zookeepers do train animals, but only for the animals’ benefit: Lions and zebras are taught to press their sides to the fence so they can be given vaccinations. Elephants know that every morning they will lift one foot at a time for their daily pedicures. Otters willingly walk into chutes so that they can be examined and treated without being scooped up and traumatized. It’s all good.

And here’s an important point: All the animals in our zoo were rescued, or born here, or obtained from another AZA-accredited zoo/responsible captive-breeding program.

Back to Biology

For most of us it has been awhile since we studied animal classification, so it was back to school for the last hour tonight.

It's all about taking notes to remember all these facts.

We learned that all the animals in the zoo fall into the Kingdom Animalia because…they are animals (as opposed to plants). Within this are a bunch of classes of animals which include Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals. Each class has defining characteristics shared by all members of that class.

For example, to be a Reptile, you need to have scales, lungs, a 3-chambered heart and lay eggs. (Take notes, there’s a quiz coming up).

Amphibians have porous skin that instantly absorbs water, air (and air pollution), chemicals, and other substances. This is a good reason not to pick up frogs. And it is a reason that frogs are the harbinger of doom for a troubled ecosystem because they will feel the pain long before we will. Unlike Reptiles, Amphibians can go through metamorphosis throughout their life cycle—so a tadpole can become a frog, but a baby snake just grows up to be an adult snake.

Arthopods such as ants, spiders, lobsters and millipedes have jointed legs, but unlike Amphibians and Reptiles, they

Have you petted a Millipede? Feels like one of those tightly coiled cords we attach to pencils. They have four legs on each segment of the coil.

don’t have veins with blood in them…their insides are full of—and this was the word the teacher used—goo. Because of the jointed-leg requirement, snails, worms and starfish don’t get to be Arthropods.


This sleepy little guy is a Madagascan hedgehog called a Tenrec, and a perfect example of his class: Mammals.


That leaves Birds and Mammals, two classes of animals we all can easily identify. But what are the key ways they differ from each other? Well, birds have beaks, wings and feathers and they lay eggs. Mammals have fur or hair, mammary glands, and live births.

A little challenge for you

Our homework is to take a list of about 50 animals and classify them according to these groups—a Google exercise in the making. Want to test yourself?

1) Which of the following is a Reptile?

a) Turtle

b) Snake

c) Gila Monster

d) All of the above

2) Which of the following is NOT an Arthropod?

a) Black Widow spider

b) Leaf Cutter ant

c) Earthworm

d) Horseshoe Crab

e) None of the above

3) What is a requirement of the class called Fish?

a) Lays eggs

b) Has gills

c) Is ectothermic

d) Spends its entire life cycle in the water

e) All of the above

4) Given the requirement that all mammals must have fur or hair and feed milk to their young, is a whale truly a mammal?

If you answered d, c, e, and “yes,” move to the head of the class! By the way, whales and dolphins are born with moustaches that help them locate their mothers and this lets them line up with the mammals.

Next up:

Saturday. 4 1/2 hours of hands-on training out in the zoo. Can’t wait. I’ll talk to you afterward.