Managed by Volunteer Houston, the ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program provides a $2,750 grant to 70 nonprofit agencies to hire exceptionally qualified full-time college interns for 8 weeks during the summer to provide essential services to the community.
Name: Gracyn Davis
The Houston Zoo
What is the Houston Zoo’s mission?
As stated in the mission statement, the Houston Zoo provides a fun, unique, and inspirational experience fostering appreciation, knowledge, and care for the natural world.
What are your internship responsibilities?
I assist with the daily husbandry of the animals in the Carnivore Department and educate the public about those animals and their conservation.
How does your internship impact the Houston community?
The Houston Zoo impacts the local community mostly through local and global conservation. The Houston Zoo has conservation projects that maintain and preserve local ecosystems. So far the Houston Zoo has released a total of 874 Atwater’s prairie chickens and 162,418 Houston toad eggs into the Texas wild, and last year 89 sea turtles received medical care at the Houston Zoo’s Veterinary Clinic. By visiting the zoo, you are helping fund conservation projects with your admissions ticket purchase. The Houston Zoo also educates individuals of all ages and provides hands-on learning encouraging visitors to connect with the environment to impact their daily life choices in a positive way.
What is your favorite part about working at the Houston Zoo?
I love all of it! It is amazing when you have the opportunity to fulfill your dreams and I am so thankful and appreciative of the Houston Zoo Carnivore Team, Exxon Mobil Corporation, and Volunteer Houston. This has been a life changing experience so far and has been a daily reassurance that I am heading down the right career path.
What does your day consist of at the Houston Zoo?
Each day is different, which is one of my favorite parts of my job, because, beside our daily department meetings at 6:00 am, everything is potentially subject to change! The rest of the morning typically is dedicated to feeding individual animals, medicating animals as needed, and cleaning exhibits. Once the exhibits are clean the Carnivore Department makes sure to put out enrichment for the day. Enrichment is used to enhance our animals’ environment and encourage natural behaviors. An example of enrichment for our animals would be placing barrels in their exhibits to play with or spreading spices and perfume in their exhibits. The Carnivore Department has a scheduled Keeper Chat at 11:30 am daily where one or more of the keepers will talk about a species under our care. Many people would believe that working with animals would mean fewer interactions with people, but interacting with zoo guests is an important part of a zookeeper’s job. It is our job to help the public make that important connection with our animals and to answer any questions they may have. Training is also something very important that occurs throughout the day when each primary trainer is available. Our animals are trained in various husbandry behaviors that reduces their stress during veterinary visits and daily interactions.