Make The Connection

September 30, 2021 | By Sarah Jonassen ’22

Makenna Juergens ’23 works with Bowie, an eastern screech owl, during an on-stage program for Dayton, Ohio’s Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. Juergens hopes to become a zookeeper. (Photo courtesy of Makenna Juergens)

Career Taking Flight

Ohio Wesleyan Student Cares for Animals During Summer Internship

Makenna Juergens ’23

Name: Makenna Juergens ’23
Hometown: Springfield, Ohio
Majors: Pre-Professional Zoology
Minor: Psychology
OWU Connection Experience: Boonshoft Museum of Discovery’s Animal Care Internship

Juergens spent the summer completing a zookeeping internship at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, Ohio.

“As someone who grew up taking care of animals, ranging from domestic house pets to hoofstock, the ‘dirty’ side of zookeeping was nothing new to me,” Juergens said of the experience. “Stripping habitats (cleaning and maintaining animal areas) is a lengthy, and often very sweaty, process, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t at least somewhat enjoy it.” 

What I’m Doing

“I learned how to feed 100-plus zoo animals on a very tight schedule. Being on ‘diets’ for the day meant that it was me who got to feed everyone, and hand-feeding a porcupine sweet potato while an enamoured audience of children watches on is a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

“A lot of animals in our zoo are unreleasable due to various health concerns, and it was also interesting to learn how care is specialized for our special zoo residents. Munch, a crow who is flightless and blind due to a dog attack, cannot perch like a normal bird; therefore, she lives on the ground with slightly elevated sticks that help her feel like she’s high in a tree.”

Lessons Learned

“I learned the most through animal programs, when someone takes one of the ambassador animals out to see the public and gives a brief talk about the animal. Coming into the internship, this is the part I was most excited about. Coming out of the internship, it is the part I am most thankful for.

“Doing animal programs not only helped me with public speaking, but also helped me think on the fly, handle many grabby-handed children at once, and taught me how to notice stress signals in many different animals.”

Favorite Moment

“I asked to do an extra project where I gave a keeper talk on the big stage to be filmed. The last week of my internship, I took an eastern screech owl named Bowie, one of the advanced animals that requires extra training to handle, onto the stage for a program. Although there is a lot of extra work involved, I don’t mind doing it because Bowie is so cute. I wish there was a way for me to bring him home after all this was over.”

My Plans After Graduation

“I went into the internship to find out if zookeeping was the right career for me, and learned much more about myself between long days of stripping habitats, preparing diets for each animal in the zoo, and taking out ambassador animals on programs. This experience has helped solidify my goal of becoming a zookeeper, as well as exposing me to all the different avenues being a zookeeper entails.

“Having experience in many different areas will help me when I apply to different jobs as well, as I am not limited in my knowledge. After this summer, I am confident that this is the job I want to do for the foreseeable future, and my well-rounded knowledge of the ins and outs of a small zoo will help that dream come to fruition.”