Posts Tagged ‘Volunteering’

Week Six in a Fix

by | February 20th, 2013

The week began with finishing Earth Day tasks such as re-formatting just under 200 contacts in Excel and then mail merging them to print address labels. This was the first time I have ever used mail merge and Amber (Manager, Special Events), was able to walk me through it and teach me the process. Envelopes were stuffed, addressed, stamped, and ready to be sent out.

Part of my internship duties include managing the sun bear web cam, so when I noticed the cam was spotted with water drops, I contacted the proper authorities to get that taken care of. The sun bear cam allows animal lovers to watch the bears at home or in the office for when they can’t be at the Oakland Zoo in person. Check out the sun bear cam here. I love watching them mid-morning and usually find Ting Ting sleeping in the hammock throughout the day. I also mailed a Fed-Ex package, without help this time (thanks to Sue walking me through it the first time) and mailed out tickets for a marketing agreement with Oakland Magazine and Parent’s Press.

Wednesday was fun, since it was the Valentine’s Day Potluck in the Administration building. This was something I was involved in from the initial invite to the decorating day of and I really enjoyed how it turned out. It was great to get Oakland Zoo staffers together to enjoy goodies such as biscotti, fresh fruit, tiramisu, and cookies mid-afternoon. It was also fun exchanging gifts as “secret valentines.” I might even propose this to become a weekly occurrence. I will let you know when that gets approved.

Around lunch time on Thursday, as I was in the kitchen, I watched three wild deer sneaking around in the back of the buildings. This is something I don’t get to witness at home in the desert, so I really enjoyed it. I also met up with the Director of Conservation to get a rundown of how Earth Day works. This was extremely helpful and allowed me to form a visual of the event, which of course will greatly aid in my future planning and involvement with Earth Day. The first edition of PAW Prints was released via e-mail and it looked great. (Make sure you sign up for our e-blast if you haven’t already).  I wrote a blog on Nikko and Gladys and then received a few special Valentine’s Day animal enrichment photos for social media that were a big hit. Much thanks to the Zoo staff that shared those pictures.


On Friday, I received a few hours of training from our web specialist, Jamie, about the CMS (Content Management System) used for our website and went over Flickr uploads. Jamie taught me a lot and I can’t wait to put my new skills to use. I took some time to check out the Sky Ride as well and used it as an opportunity to take photos and then promote on social media. It was a great experience to add to the list. Last, but not least, I scheduled some weekend social media updates, via HootSuite, to emphasize the great weather conditions over the holiday weekend. Hopefully the animals saw a good crowd over the weekend.

Diving into Week Five

by | February 11th, 2013

I began this week meeting up with the Director of Conservation at the Oakland Zoo and going over the Earth Day event, “Party for the Planet,” and discussing where we need to start in the prepping process. Before we can mail out invites for the event, the vendor list needed to be updated, so I worked on updating throughout the week. This took some time, considering there were well over 100 organizations on the list, but addresses and contact information were updated and many new organizations were added. I also created the same document in Excel format for future use. During this whole process, I was able to familiarize myself with a variety of local conservation, environmental friendly, organizations in the Bay Area, which was pretty neat.

Next, I spent time submitting our latest press releases to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums through their online newsroom. The AZA actually picked up our story about Nikko and Gladys and shared it with their database, which includes over 200 accredited Zoos and Aquariums across the country. Not too shabby. I was invited and attended lunch with the Marketing Department again and continued to learn about various business items. This lunch was specifically about sponsorships and how they work. Following lunch, I sat in on a sponsorship meeting, watched how an outside agency presented a proposal, what our staff look for, and even added some input/ideas of my own.

It was a quiet and calm week when it came to media on-site. Instead of being out and about, I realized how much preparation actually goes into setting up a lot of these video/media shoots and projects. There is much coordination involved between several parties. For example, a day must be found that fits the specific media outlet, the Marketing Department, the animal schedules, and a number of other Animal Care staff schedules. All the details of the shoot schedule must also be prepared and ready to go prior to the actual day of shooting.

As a side note, a few of the segments from our training video ‘aired’ at the all staff meeting Thursday morning, and I was a pretty popular individual that day with everyone telling me what a ‘superstar’ I was acting out skits in those videos. Looks like I’ll be seen at the Oakland Zoo for years to come.

A few other contracts with local organizations came through this week and I was walked through our partnership with the Oakland A’s specifically. Nicky explained to me what each little part of the agreement meant and gave me examples from the past, so that I can assist in creating and delivering the 2013 points of action. This includes items such as creating PSA’s or short slogans that will market the Zoo and its wonderful programs at the A’s home games in the upcoming season.  Besides talking baseball, I then attended the Operations Lead meeting conducted by Deb Menduno (Director of Operations) and really enjoyed sitting in and observing how other departments operate, what they focus on, and how they communicate overall.

In addition to the above, I of course spent much time keeping Facebook, Twitter, and the blog updated, exciting, and engaging (that was the attempt anyway). There was also a goal set to reach 11,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook by Friday, and looks like we made it! We had so many shares on Friday and it is really awesome how an online community can come together when you ask for such a small favor. This is why I am such a fan of the power of social media, especially for nonprofits.

 

 

Behind the Scenes with a Marketing Intern

by | January 18th, 2013

Last week, I headed out from Phoenix, Arizona to San Francisco, California as a poor college student to join my sister and brother-in-law in their 500 square foot apartment and bunk on their couch for the next four months. Why you ask? To pursue an amazing opportunity that has been offered to me here at the Oakland Zoo.

I am in my final semester of my undergraduate degree program at Arizona State University studying Nonprofit Leadership and Management and minoring in Special Events Management. I have a great passion for animals and this field and was highly interested in playing a role at this wonderful organization. As much as I would love being an animal care intern, I want to take this chance to learn more about the daily ‘behind the scenes’ operations that take place in the Administration Office. After several months of communication through emails and phone calls with Senior Marketing/PR Manager, Nicky Mora and Special Events Manager, Amber Frisbie, the position of Marketing Intern was offered to me.

I began my internship on January 7, 2013 and cannot begin to express how welcomed I felt in just the first ten minutes of me walking into the office. My computer desk is nestled right in between Nicky and Amber, with Everard just across the way from me. (That’s right. Go ahead and ask them next time you see them just how lucky they are to all be sharing my presence. It’s kind of a big deal). Something else that was a big deal upon my arrival were the two wall hangings left for me to decorate my area. One happens to be a painting by Donna, one of our elephants. How cool is that? I was definitely bragging to anyone and everyone that day about the awesome painting left for me to hang up. The other one was a Wild Australia sign. Little did Amber and Nicky know, but elephants are one of my favorite animals and I have a deep love for Australia as well, for I spent a month there back in 2011. Major brownie points for these two ladies already (as if they really needed them).

After receiving a tour and introduction around the office, I came back to my desk and got familiar with things.

Here are some highlights of my first week:

Monday: Today I was greeted with smiles, my own computer, desk, phone, email, and even an elephant painting.

Tuesday: I had the opportunity to watch and assist with an on-site film shoot by KOFY TV covering the gibbons love story and the three newest spotted hyenas. I also interviewed Deb Menduno, the Director of Operations, for the staff profile page and gained excellent insight and wisdom from her.

Wednesday: Being half way through week one, I began to realize how awesome it is to walk through the Zoo every morning, be able to watch Nikko and Gladys (the gibbons) swing around, and in general, what a beautiful property this is. I did my first Oakland Zoo Facebook post and watched Nicky send out a press release (had no idea it works that way). Then I embarked on another field trip to KTVU Channel 2 Studio to watch the taping of a Bay Area People show on the California condor, with some highly educated individuals such as our very own Dr. Goodnight, Ventana Wildlife’s Kelly Sorenson, and Myra Finkelstein, PhD researcher at UC Santa Cruz.

Thursday: I met Sarah, the Education Specialist, at KOFY TV’s Studio in San Francisco, in which I spent an hour and a half on a bus commuting to and may or may not have gotten lost in the process. However, I made it in time to see some taping of Wildlife Wednesday on set. I can also say that I was visited by the EMT at work today. Not to worry, all is good.

Friday: Today, I started the morning off at a Healthy Living Festival planning meeting (an event held on Zoo grounds in the summer), experienced a department lunch meeting, and missed my bus to BART, but was able to hitch a ride from Brendan in the Education Department.

It was a warm welcome in my first week and a big thanks to everyone for definitely looking out for me in so many ways, whether that involved giving me a ride to the BART station to lessen my transportation costs, making me a PB and J sandwich, or showing me around the Zoo, etc. Again, a special thanks to Nicky and Amber for all the work and sacrifice they made to have me join their team.

Going Batty in Australia – Part 1

by | November 4th, 2011

Buttercup in the seated position

Last Monday I began my trip from the Oakland Zoo to Atherton, Queensland, Australia to volunteer for three weeks at the Toga Bat Hospital.  From the moment I arrived (on Wednesday, because of the long travel time and the time difference) it was straight down to business.  My first duty as a volunteer was to feed a fun little Yellow-Bellied Sheathtail Bat (Saccolaimus flaviventris) named “Buttercup”.  Buttercup is one of approx. 100 bats that reside permanently at the hospital.  Injured as a juvenile far away from the bat hospital, the people who found her thought she was a fruit bat out of her normal range and so fed her fruit until she ended up at the bat hospital.  Because she was never fed a proper diet of insects she needs help eating her daily diet of mealworms.  What makes her funny is she likes to eat in very ungainly positions such as seated on her

Buttercup "standing"rear on the feeder’s leg, “standing” with her feet barely touching the feeder’s leg, and the slightly more natural position of upside-down against her feeder’s chest.

She may take a mealworm in one position but want to finish it in another.  Sometimes she needs to be rotated between the positions.  We try to get about 20 mealworms dipped in supplements into her while juggling her between the three different postures.  It was quite the introduction to my life for the next three weeks as I sat there in the sundress that I had just changed into in Cairns because of the intense heat and humidity feeding a bat, sitting her upright on my lap.  It was the first of many fantastic experiences that I would have.

Upside down Buttercup

I am extremely happy to be here due to the generosity of Elaine and Warren Lash who established a yearly fund to send an Oakland Zoo staff member to participate directly in a conservation project.  Without their contribution, I would not have been able to partake in this incredible experience.

 

Up Close and Personal with Biofacts

by | December 16th, 2010

Kids Love Skulls!

My name is Loretta Breuning, and I’m a docent at the Oakland Zoo. My favorite place in the zoo is the cart full of primate skulls. Kids run over when they see the skulls, and that makes it fun to be a docent. I like to talk to the kids about adaptations, like the baboon’s big nose that’s good at smelling predators. But most of all, I like to hear their questions.

“Is it real?” is usually the first thing they ask. In a world full of Photoshop and Reality TV, people care about what’s real. I explain that the resin models are cast from real skulls. But kids get so excited about the real ones that I give everyone a turn to touch them with one finger. I am impressed with how grateful and polite the kids are as they take turns touching.

Every few minutes, someone asks “How did he die?” or “How did you get this?” Kids are obviously thinking about the stewardship of the animals. I reassure them that zoo animals get the best medical care and live to a very old age, but when we can’t save them, we save their bones to honor them and their species in the future.

A lot of kids have something to teach me. One day, I was amazed to hear the words “that’s the spinal cord attachment” coming from a kid who was shorter than the cart. His mother told me he learned it on a KQED science show.

I used to ask well-informed kids if they watch Animal Planet. But a few kids told me, “No, I read books.” Now I’ve learned my lesson and I presume kids read books.

Parents often have something to teach me, too. One mother pointed to a tiny hole in the jaw of a skull and said, “That’s where the dentist injects anesthesia.” She was a dental assistant and told me that the little holes are where the nerves go. I had always wondered about those holes, and I gladly pass on the knowledge.

Some kids have so many questions that I want to suggest resources to enjoy at home. If it’s bones they like, I send them to eskeletons which has beautiful images of each mammal’s skeleton. If you like to watch gibbons swing, you will love the close-ups of their wrists and shoulders.

If a kid wants to know more about what’s inside the skull, I will tell them about brainmuseum. It shows dozens of different mammal brains- photos of real ones, flashing one after another; (click on “brain evolution” on the left bar).

A day at the zoo always raises big questions about life. One day, I heard a three-year old girl saying “But Mommy, how did they get the skin off?” They were standing in front of sarcosuchas (the big skeleton of a crocodile ancestor in the Children’s Zoo).  That’s not an easy question to answer. I think people love to come to the Zoo because it helps us think about the nature of life. If you’re interested in becoming a docent or a Zoo Ambassador, you can get more information here.

Happy Red Panda Day

by | November 19th, 2010

The holidays are likely on your mind right now, but did you know that a major holiday was just celebrated this past weekend? Just after Halloween and before Thanksgiving falls International Red Panda Day, which the Oakland Zoo celebrated in style with the help of our good friends from the Red Panda Network.

What’s a red panda, you ask? These small, raccoon-like mammals live in the forests surrounding the Himalayas, in China, India and Nepal, and are also known as the “firefox”. They subsist almost entirely on bamboo, eating up to 200,000 bamboo leaves in one day! Besides being charismatic and biologically unique, the red panda can also lay claim to being the original panda. The word “panda” is derived from the Nepalese word “poonya”, which means “eater of bamboo” and refers to the red panda. When scientists discovered the larger, black and white, bamboo-eating animal in the mountains of China, they assumed the two animals to be related, and dubbed the now more famous one the Giant Panda. Now, however, we know that red pandas and giant pandas aren’t closely related at all. In fact, though red pandas share similarities with raccoons, weasels and bears, they have been classified in their own family, Ailuridae, biologically distinct and unique from other species.

TWG Hannah Horowitz shows her red panda spirit!

The actual number of red pandas in the wild is unknown. Like many animals, they face threats from habitat loss and climate change which damages the fragile Himalayan ecosystem. Though their range is geographically large, in practice the pandas are restricted to small patches of forests which support the bamboo plants they so rely on. And yet, while their larger namesake has become a symbol for conservation worldwide, few people have even heard of a red panda, let alone know about the challenges they face. The Red Panda Network, which is dedicated to preserving the species through education, research and conservation in Nepal, decided to raise awareness by holding the 1st annual International Red Panda Day on November 13, with the help of zoos, schools and clubs across the country. When they asked if we’d be willing to join in to teach people about this amazing animal, we readily agreed!

And so, this past Saturday, November 13, we celebrated this special species. The Teen Wild Guides operated tables with red panda facts and activities. Visitors spent the day coloring red panda masks, making red panda origami, and having their faces painted. All activities were free, with donations accepted. When all was said and done, we raised $215 to be donated to the Red Panda Network, which they’ll use to further their excellent conservation work with local people in Nepal.

A young visitor shows off his red panda mask.

An event like Red Panda Day is a great chance to reflect on the little things we can all do to benefit conservation. Here at the zoo, our conservation programs run the gamut from fundraising to composting, but nothing is more important than education. Just by learning about a new animal or habitat, we have taken the first step to making a difference for them. As the great Senegalese conservationist Baba Dioum said; “In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, we will understand only what we are taught.” And so, to everyone who came out to the zoo on Red Panda day, colored a mask, and maybe dropped a dollar or two in our donation box, our sincere thanks for doing your part, and for helping us support a hardworking organization. Now we all know which panda truly reigns supreme!