This summer, Jade Desmarais ’18 (anthropology) interned for the “Primate World” exhibit at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While part of her duties included cleaning the enclosures, she was also able to prepare and administer medications, feedings, and enrichment to the various primate species in the exhibit. She also assisted in many training demonstrations and performances the zoo presented to the public.
“I had the amazing opportunity to work with species including western lowland gorillas, Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, siamangs, and golden lion tamarins,” says Desmarais. “My goal is to have a career centered on primate care, so zoos and sanctuaries were great places to look for internship programs for me.”
Desmarais got involved with the internship program by first researching various accredited zoos in the country with primate exhibits, then narrowing her search to those that offered programs of interest. She says her classes in the UMass College of Social and Behavioral Sciences have demonstrated that there is an internship opportunity for every field or line of work.
“Because SBS encompasses such a broad array of course possibilities, it really gives you the chance to find issues you wish to get more involved in, and explore them further through internship and co-ops.” She explains that her professors have encouraged students to seek out internship opportunities, even directing them to specific ones based on what topics are being discussed in class.
This internship provided Desmarais with valuable work experience and has made her a more confident person. This experience also led to her becoming a more active member in her community.
“I’ve begun to educate people in the community about the use of sustainable palm oil,” she explains. “A large conservation message that we perpetuated at the zoo is the importance of using sustainable palm oil to protect orangutan habitats in Indonesia. Not using it at all would be detrimental to the Indonesian economy, as it is used in everything from crackers to toothpaste across the globe, but it needs to be sourced in a way that does not further decimate the rain forests. I’ve been educating people about this via a free app created by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo called the Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping Guide. It informs the user as to whether or not a product uses sustainable palm oil.”
Now, Jade is more well-versed in today’s issues on captive animals and conservation, so she is able to educate those around her and inspire action for the improvement of animal care practices and species survival.
“After spending twelve weeks with the amazing primates and zoo staff at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, I knew this was the perfect fit for me,” she says. “After I graduate I will continue to work with primates and educate the public on conservation issues world wide. When I begin my job search, having the foundations of knowledge from my time spent at the zoo makes me feel at ease knowing that I will have the skills to succeed.”
Desmarais concludes with some advice for students interested in pursuing internships. “Look to your SBS advisors for available internships. There are many things to consider – paid or unpaid, eagerness to travel, etc. – but there are so many opportunities that you’ll definitely be able to find something that piques your interest. Once you narrow it down, it only takes an email expressing interest and an application to get the ball rolling!”
Planning on taking on an internship? Apply for an SBS internship scholarship.