My Last Co-op Day at the Toronto Zoo

Written by Hayleigh, a Co-op Student from Dunbarton High School

As you may already know from my previous blog posts, my name is Hayleigh and I’ve been working at the Zoo as a co-op student since September 2019. Unfortunately, my co-op experience is coming to an end as my semester finishes and exams begin. While it’s sad that I won’t be working here at the Zoo anymore, I am super grateful for the experience I was given because I’ve been able to learn so much and gain many valuable skills.

I learned how to take care of numerous turtles by the amazing Zookeeper, Anna. She taught me how to feed the turtles, change their water, and clean the filters. All of this makes sure that their needs are met, and that they grow and stay healthy while in our care. While doing these jobs, Anna also gave me other opportunities, such as getting the chance to see a Kangaroo during surgery, a caribou, Massasauga rattlesnakes, and Bucky the babirusa. Along with taking care of the turtles, every month I would have to identify, weigh and measure the turtles and then record the information. This allowed me to learn how to identify each turtle by their notches (unique markings that we give them to tell them all apart) and sometimes I got to re-notch their shell if their marking was hard to see.

Feeding crickets to wood turtle hatchlings.

If I wasn’t taking care of turtles I would be doing field work, which has been my favorite job during this co-op. Brianna and Celise, the wonderful Field Technicians, taught me how to track turtles. It was a little scary at first going into the swamp water with all the tracking equipment (because none of it is waterproof!), but after doing it a few times it was a lot of fun. It’s a great job because I get to be outside on my feet enjoying nature. Tracking the turtles also allowed me to gain knowledge about the environment surrounding me such as the different species of native and invasive plants. Additionally, on my first day of doing field work, I got to see a transmitter being placed on a Blanding turtle, which was interesting to see. This piece of equipment will allow the team to track this turtle over time, so that information can be collected on their seasonal movements, habitat uses, and growth rates in the wild.

Weighing a hatchling turtle, to keep track of their growth rates!

In addition to the turtle care and fieldwork, I did office tasks on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I created social media posts about different environmental/animal awareness days such as World Wetland Day (Feb 2, 2020) and Earth Day (April 22, 2020). One of my posts about World Reptile Day was posted on the Adopt-A-Pond Facebook page, which made me feel really proud. Keep an eye out for more of my Facebook posts, which will go up throughout the year at @Adopt.A.Pond!

Facebook post

A Facebook post written by Hayleigh for Reptile Awareness Day. Follow @Adopt.A.Pond to learn more about reptiles, amphibians, and their wetland habitats!

I also had the opportunity to create blog posts like the one I’m writing right now. Doing these tasks helped me practice my writing and scientific communication skills. I also had to review data about the turtles to ensure there were no errors and sometimes I would input data about the turtles into the computer system. This helped me gain the ability to look out for mistakes and the skill of data entry in Excel. My final job to do in the office was a snake shed project. I had to look meticulously through many datasheets to find exact dates that snakes hatched from their eggs, and whey they shed for the first time. I gained useful research skills by looking through various documents and tracing the movement of snakes between enclosures at the Zoo. It was like a giant puzzle!

I’m very thankful for this experience and for all the people like Donnell, Megan, and Taylor who guided me through everything here at the Zoo. It was a once in a life time experience that I’ll never forget!