A Co-Op Experience We’ll Never Forget


Jessica Mackay (left) with Captain Sunshine the Blanding’s Turtle, and Ryan Dunklin (right) with Tiny Tim the Wood Turtle



Hello readers! Ryan Dunklin and Jessica Mackay here, and we’re grade 11 students from Dunbarton high school in Pickering. Since school began in September, we have been working with the Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme at the Toronto Zoo to aid in wetland conservation. Our tasks varied from day to day, but all revolved around the protection of native amphibians and reptiles. The staff here were very welcoming when we got here and made us feel like we were key parts of the team which made it easy to settle in. If we had any questions or needed anything they always offered their full support in answering them, or pointing us in the right direction. This support system allowed us to excel in our positions. Below, each of us will focus on the specifics on what we did during our four months at the Toronto Zoo!

Ryan Dunklin


Headstarted Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

I’m Ryan and I’ve been helping out with the turtle care (feeding and cleaning) for the headstarting programs that the Toronto Zoo is involved with. With the Adopt-A-Pond staff, we’ve created a schedule so I feed the turtles every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while I clean the enclosures every Tuesday and Thursday. We feed the turtles a varied diet which includes nutritional gel, fish, worms, crickets, and leafy greens. Caring for the turtles has helped me improve my time management skills, amongst many others. I’m proud to say that I’ve contributed to help raise these turtles, and that I have helped them grow to a size where they’ll have a better chance of surviving in the wild. I hope that later on in life I can get a full-time job here at the Toronto Zoo and continue to care for the animals, but also to give new co-op students an opportunity to have the same experience I did. I want to thank Mr. Gordon and the Adopt-A-Pond Programme for giving me this amazing opportunity.

Jessica Mackay


Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) model that Jessica painted

I’m Jessica and I’ve been involved with multiple projects here at the Toronto Zoo. In the beginning I was helping with the turtle care, which was really neat to learn and interact with the headstart turtles and watch them grow. After this, I got a special assignment to paint frog models for Adopt-A-Pond. I’ve never painted realistic models before and wasn’t sure I would be able to. Despite my initial nervousness, I was really happy with how well the models turned out. These models will be used in outreach events to help people learn ID features for Ontario’s native frog species. I really think that this experience has improved my art skills, and my frog ID abilities. Seeing and learning firsthand what the Toronto Zoo does to help wildlife, including their conservation efforts to fight extinction has made this experience really inspiring. Everyone here is amazing, and made me feel very welcomed from the start. I’m going to miss being part of the team. I’m so thankful for this opportunity and wish it didn’t have to end. Thank you Mr. Gordon and the Adopt-A-Pond Programme for everything.



Headstarted Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)

Our Final Thoughts

If you are an animal lover you should consider a co-op placement at the Toronto Zoo. It’s full of opportunity to help conserve and protect wildlife. We were nervous to start here, but now we’re sad to leave. It’s amazing how much you can change in just four short months.

Ways to get involved!

1. Submit your sightings of:

2. Volunteer here at the Toronto Zoo!

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