The last couple months

I can’t believe it’s June 20th already! In the beginning I was so good about keeping a blog, but as internships ramped up, the blogging slowed down.

I have been at the zoo consistently since my last post, pretty regularly Monday-Friday, with Wednesdays reserved to visit my local hotels for the marketing internship. The rest of the time has been spent auditing the narrations in the park for my capstone. I’ve been able to hit most all of them three times each (there’s around 22 of them ranging from 5 min. long to 25 min. long).

This auditing was “phase 1” of my capstone and was definitely the most time-consuming. Starting last week, I met with my supervisor for the capstone here at the zoo and we discussed taking on the manatee talk as my specific project to work on. Because of that, I am now in the initial stages of assessing the effectiveness of the manatee talk to communicate proper conservation messaging. I am currently asking visitors open-ended questions about manatees such as: “What is the first word that comes to mind when I say the word “manatee”?” and “What are some things you can do in your daily life that can help manatees?” to get a baseline of what the guests already know and feel about manatees. Then from there, we will do another visitor assessment about behaviors people already do/will do/won’t do (recycling, turning of lights, reusing items, etc.) All of this information will be considered as a new draft of a manatee chat narration is made. Ideally, I would be a part of this entire process seeing it out until the new narration is implemented. However, due to the length of my internship that simply won’t happen. Not to mention, I am very happy to report that I have been offered a full-time position in the education department at the zoo!! So, the amount of time I have to dedicate to the rest of the narration reworking will definitely be shortened, but for good reason! Luckily, my supervisor does work closely with the education department (and the education department is the one that gives this narration) so hopefully I will actually be able to still work on this project, around upcoming trainings!

On a bit of a side-note, here: I attended the National Association for Interpreter’s Certified Interpretive Guide training last week and it was fantastic. Assuming I passed the written test, I am soon to be a certified interpretive guide! At this training, I was able to present an example of a manatee talk I think would be suitable for the zoo, tying it into my capstone project. I learned a great deal and truly think it has already helped. I gave a tour on Sunday that I have given plenty of times before (at my old job- I was filling in this time!) and it was honestly the best one I have given. I’m so glad I did this training and recommend it for anyone who works in a field where you have to interact with the public: parks, museums, zoos, aquariums, etc. There’s also one called Certified Interpretive Host which is a little less intensive but just as valuable for those who perhaps work in hotels and other customer-service related fields that aren’t necessarily “teaching” the public.

Alright, I think that’s what I’ve got for this week. I’ll keep you posted as I go through orientation on Saturday! In the meantime, here are some pictures from my “secret shopping” in the park listening to the narrations:

That’s a Wrap

April 20th was my last day at the Florida Aquarium and as such my last day collecting data. It was a great last day, full of dolphins and sunshine and friendly boat guests. During my 16 weeks (every Thursday) I was able to get 80 surveys filled out. It was definitely a learning experience, figuring out how best to approach people in order to encourage them to volunteer to take the survey both before and after the cruise.

What I learned:

  • The best way to gather volunteers was to wait until the top deck was full of guests and make an announcement over the speakers: I’m a PCGS student, sustainable tourism, dolphin conservation, thank-you prize for volunteers
  • Perhaps for more accurate results I should have asked for one person per family
  • There may have been biases involved- I was worried folks were telling me what they thought I wanted to hear, despite it being anonymous
  • I should have asked for an age-range from the participants
  • The question I had about “what stood out most about this cruise” was inconsistent as sometimes we saw dolphins and sometimes we didn’t. This made the option “seeing wild dolphins” unavailable to some guests.
  • The FLAQ boat captains & crew (MarineOps) are really great people 🙂

If anyone is interested in doing an internship at FLAQ I do recommend it. Particularly if you have the same opportunity that I did, where I was able to suggest my own research project, it was approved, and I got to follow-through. Rebecca was a great point of contact, and I recommend reaching out to her.

In the meantime, I decided to extend my zoo internship on the marketing team. Once classes are over it’ll mean that I can spend more time with the department working on other projects. In the meantime, I continue my usual hotel routes. I also will be working on my capstone at the zoo this summer and I can’t wait!

Until next time!

Rhinos, Penguins, and Internships…oh my!

Things have picked up quite a bit with the zoo and the aquarium, so I haven’t blogged in a while. The aquarium surveys are going well, I’ve gotten 10 people taking the survey each day the last few attempts. The dolphins have also been cooperating, so that’s nice. The zoo has opened up its “Dinos Alive” exhibit, which has meant a lot of marketing opportunities for us interns, as well as some fun on-site. We’ve been delivering dinosaur themed gifts to the local hotel employees, including “mochasaurus” and “tea-rex” mugs. I also attended Feast with the Beasts, an evening where local restaurants came to the zoo and provided endless samples. At this event the zoo was also open to the guests, and it was great fun to drink wine while watching the elephants frolic.

Most exciting recently was when the marketing team was invited to attend the rhino encounter, where we fed one of the rhinos and were given a short introduction to rhino biology and conservation. This talk was also the start of my capstone project, where I will be assessing the narrations on-site, so it was incredibly valuable.

Here are some recent photos from my internships, one is during the rhino feeding, the other is a selfie with Rocky at FLAQ.

“I Do at the Zoo”

The Knot, the “#1 trusted authority for all things wedding” as it says on their website, held an informational meeting today at the zoo. This is a quarterly meeting held at different venues throughout the year for those who work locally in the wedding industry. The zoo does host weddings and decided to also host this meeting this quarter. It was super interesting to see how the zoo sets up for a wedding and I even got to meet a clouded leopard cub (one of the “animal ambassadors” that may make an appearance at a wedding held on-site) and a snake. I got to hear some marketing techniques used to snag the millennials, as the theme of this meeting focused on how to get millennials to go to contract with you (be it vendors, florists, photographers, wedding planners, you name it). It was super interesting, being someone going through this process now as “the bride”, and learning the techniques used by vendors to land me as a client. Some things I identified with, others I did not. Some recommendations I thought were great, others I was’t too sure about (using LinkedIn to connect with your brides & grooms?) Overall, it was a fun experience and I even walked away with a copy of The Knot magazine (hello, planning!) and a zoo themed mug for their new Dinos exhibit.

Oh yeah…everyone go see the Dinos!!

The Rosebud Continuum

Preserving what is truly the real Florida is becoming a serious challenge.  The rampant overdevelopment of land and coastal areas without regard for native plants and ecosystems is forever altering the natural ecological balance of living systems which have thrived for millennia.  The Rosebud Continuum is a new, continuous and evolving project to restore and preserve a relatively large land and lake area in Pasco County Florida.  The project will also incorporate a number of new and vibrant additions to the landscape including bee colonies, bat and bird houses, alternative energy sources, sustainable agriculture including hydroponic production, aquaculture utilizing the natural, spring lake on the property, native plant demonstration gardens, and eventually, buildings constructed to very high energy efficiency/sustainable levels for lectures, classes, research and other educational purposes.  A part of the property zoned for commercial use will support a farmer’s market and organic food cafe or other similar use.  The property also has a very unique historical connection as one of the owners was born on a Lakota Sioux Indian reservation in South Dakota known as the Rosebud Reservation. Part of this project’s purpose will be to create a meaningful interaction with this Native American history.

The present state of the property is one of cultivated pasture along with vast amounts of invasive, non-native plant species.  The following photographs show large amounts of invasive plant species which in many cases obstruct sight or movement through the property as well as reduce the ability of native plants to exist and thrive depriving the local fauna of food sources, shelter and other benefit.

28getPart 55

The area was once a thriving agricultural location.  It consisted mainly of citrus groves and farm or pasture areas as two of the following historical photographs show.

Historical Aerial 1

Historical Photo 2



Crossing the Finish Line

This post is less about my internship, and more about me.

These last two years have been amazing…

I moved to Florida from Omaha, NE, began renting my first apartment, SHARED A BANK ACCOUNT WITH SOMEONE.

Also, I started grad school, got an adult job, wrecked a car, bought my first new car, got engaged, got married (along with attending several other weddings along the way), experienced what it’s like to get my car impounded (after returning home from getting married), bought a house, got promoted (several times at aforementioned adult job), bought my first lawn mower, broke my first lawn mower, completed my internship, and went on several much-needed vacations.

I am now awaiting the arrival of my first child, and I could not be happier. Nor could I feel more fulfilled. Life is awesome.

I know there are many others who have accomplished tons of different things during their grad school terms, and I hope you all take the time to celebrate the culmination of your losses, gains, growing pains, silver linings, crown achievements, scraped knees and everything else dotted between.

A wonderful year to you all.

You did it, dude.

– Zach

The water flows from sustainable to unsustainable. 

It only took about 4 weeks to receive the water flow information for the Alhambra and Granada, but I was able to track it down. In the 13th – 15th centuries, it made perfect sense to build a palace on a river with water sources originating in the Sierra Nevada. The cool water that flows as a result of high altitude rain and snow, is a cooling element that gives life to the Alhambra and the Albacyn. However, the drinkable water that once gave life is no longer drinkable. The amount of unsustainable water and irrigation practices demonstrated at the Alhambra and the Albacyn are concerning. I found where they have added other water sources to the original supply in order to keep up the ambiance.

The water flows as such:

From the Sierra Nevada in a river directly to the Generalife. From the Generalife to the Nasrid Palaces and exiting to the Darro River in Granada as a water resource for inhabitants.

A tour through the king’s water holding

To learn more about the 15th century water systems in Granada and the Albacin, we took a private tour through the Alijibe del Rey. Aljibes in Spain are the main water supply and storage “tanks” for the surrounding areas. For the more wealthy residents, the water supply could be routed to the palaces. As for the lower class residents, they would have to fetch their water from the port of the aljibe. Please see the attached video for a look inside of the Aljibe del Rey.

A Day at The South Carolina Aquarium

The South Carolina Aquarium sits on the edge of the historic, brick-laden city of Charleston. The modern structure accents the coastline with clean lines mixing into bright blue sky.

My walk to the aquarium from the parking garage is riddled with remorse…as I realize…wearing skinny jeans in 100% humidity was not the best decision, and I hope to make it into air conditioning before I break a sweat.

As it turns out, I have arrived early…and will have to embrace the heat and appreciate any small breeze that offers some relief.

As soon as my body has adjusted to Charleston’s steamy demeanor, I get a text saying I can get my visitor’s badge and come inside.

I am greeted by my external supervisor, beaming from ear to ear, as I believe she always is. We walk inside and the A/C sends a message to my jeans, “You’re safe in here, dude.”

The aquarium is buzzing with parents, children, teens, young adults and volunteers excited to “Ooooo” and “Ahhhh” at all the exhibits and snap some pictures for their Instagram accounts. #southcarolinaaquarium

I am then introduced to various staff, and learn about all the wonderful things the aquarium does to benefit sea life and the general populace. I walk through the sea turtle hospital and see all the rescues acclimating to their tanks. Healing from injury. There are some turtles lapping their tanks with a lax attitude, and some that sit still, and seem anxious.

We walk through the food prep area where a volunteer has begun prepping meals for all the aquarium’s inhabitants, and catch a scent of the ocean as the door closes.

In a small room in the basement my external supervisor gives a presentation on their Good Catch program, and we discuss all the complexities of fishing and what we can do to hold restaurants accountable – ranging from asking your server about where they get their fish, to environmental policy change and fish reproduction rates.

After, we visit one of the Good Catch restaurant partners and eat lunch. Our server rattles off several facts about how they choose their fish and change the menu frequently to ensure they keep up with what is in season. It is exciting to see the program’s efforts in action and see how excited their partners are to advocate for the cause.

Safe weekends, everyone.

– Zach

Making Connections

Over the course of these past weeks, I have had the pleasure to meet with several business owners, distributors, chefs, and industry professionals. These have been some of the most encouraging conversations I have had throughout my entire time at USF.

One of my favorite conversations took place just this last week when the general manager of one of my case study restaurants gave me a call on my lunch break.

We spent nearly an hour discussing their commitment to sustainability, and how it is essential to their business. This is not only because they are cutting costs, but also, they are preserving the area they depend on to attract repeat customers. This business lives and breathes sustainability. He made it known that this was not just some marketing buzzword they like to slap on their website. And their staff is really excited to tell you about it.

It is really nice to step outside the classroom, and see people in our backyard so committed to the changes we are championing.

Hope everyone’s summer is going well!

– Zach