Snake model design: A co-op experience by Jessica Mackay

I am Jessica Mackay, a grade 12 student from Dunbarton High School. Since the start of the school year, I have been with the Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Program at the Toronto Zoo for my co-op program that I also did last year painting frog models. After the success of the frog models, Adopt-A-Pond had an idea to do another group of models, for snakes, and I thought it would be a good idea to come back and enhance my art skills.


[Eastern Fox Snake model (Elaphe gloydi) and unfinished base]

So this year, I have been painting snake models. They were harder than the frog models at first because they are larger and have more detail with the scales, but surprisingly took less time and I was done all seven within two months. I think they were easier in the end as I did not have to blend the colours like I did with the frogs.  Due to finishing early, my supervisor introduced me to the Exhibit Design department and they have been teaching me how to build displays for the models including different ways to create realistic looking rocks, roots, leaves, and more. I will also hopefully get to paint salamander models. All the models will be used in outreach events for people to gain a better understanding of these animals in terms of their appearance, habitat, and threats they face. I am glad to have returned for a second placement because I have learned a lot about exhibit design. I have improved my art, organization, time managment, and social skills. I recommend doing your co-op at the Toronto Zoo if you are passionate about helping animals. It is a great experience, the staff here are always welcoming, and there is so much to learn and careers to discover.

[Massasuaga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) model]

Once again, this has been an amazing co-op experience. It has been exciting being part of Toronto Zoo, learning so much from everyone, and gaining more ideas of what I can do in the future. Being able to be here and learn different roles in the zoo and different job careers is a great experience they have provided me that I did not expect to have when I returned. Thank you to my co-op teachers, the Adopt-A-Pond team, Exhibit Design, and everyone else during my time at the Toronto Zoo for this opportunity.