Make The Connection

July 12, 2022 | By Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan student Caitlin Hyatt ’22 holds a baby Green Heron dropped off for care at the Florida wildlife rescue center where she is completing a summer internship. ‘This little guy actually made the news,’ she said. (Photo by Amanda Burke)

Pelican Paradise

Ohio Wesleyan Student Earns Grant to Support Wildlife Rescue Internship in Florida

Name: Caitlin Hyatt ’22
Hometown: Lodi, Ohio
Majors: Pre-Professional Zoology and Theatre
Minor: Chemistry
OWU Connection Experience: Conservation and Education: An Internship with Pelican Harbor Seabird Station

Hyatt earned a competitive Theory-to-Practice Grant (TPG), part of the OWU Connection, to support a three-month summer internship with Pelican Harbor Seabird Station, a nonprofit wildlife rescue center located in Miami, Florida.

Why I Chose This Experience

“I want to go into wildlife and conservation in the future, and in order to do that, I need hands-on experience. I have been working at the Ohio Wildlife Center and have had amazing training there, but I was missing one thing – pelicans.

“Pelicans are my favorite animal and, unfortunately, Ohio does not have any native pelicans. I searched for wildlife rescues that included pelicans in their rescue, and I found Pelican Harbor. It was an opportunity to have a three-month internship working with Florida wildlife in a clinic and education center that gives me invaluable experiences while also being in the beautiful city of Miami.

“I have gone from working with the common critters of Ohio (opossums, skunks, foxes, and raccoons) to the seabirds of Florida (laughing gulls, royal turns, ibises, and of course, pelicans). This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up! I want to be a well-rounded and knowledgeable wildlife rehabber and conservationist, so I want to work with as many species of wildlife as possible.”

Caitlin Hyatt ’22 (right) feeds a pelican recovering from botulism while working at the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station in Miami. (Photo by Amanda Burke)

My Favorite Moment

“The best experience I have had so far should come as no surprise. I was trained how to hold a pelican, tube feed it (which involves sticking your arm all the way down its throat!), and administer subcutaneous fluids. Being so close to these majestic creatures has made the whole trip worth it! And that was within the first two weeks! I still have two months left, so I can’t wait to learn and experience so much more!”

Lessons Learned

“I have been noting animal behavior and what can trigger some animals. We take some special precautions to make the animals as calm and comfortable as possible. Like how hawks get stressed very easily and will use open-mouth breathing to signal how stressed they are. When that happens, we will either put them back in their enclosure or cover their eyes to calm them down. …

This baby opossum is among the animals Caitlin Hyatt is helping to care for. (Photo by Caitlin Hyatt)

“I am learning about all kinds of animals, the typical medicines, how to look at an X-ray, how to administer medications, and the husbandry of wild animals. The great part about this internship is that what I am learning is not necessarily specific to the animals I am working with, most of what I am learning can be applied to other wildlife, even some native to Ohio! I am getting to work with my favorite animal and learn how to help them, but I am also learning the inner workings of working at a wildlife clinic, rehab, and education center.”

Why Internships Matter

“This experience is important because it takes concepts and knowledge I have learned from the classroom and uses them outside in the real world! I love my classes, but there is only so much experience you can gain in a lab or class. In order to be ready for graduate school or the workforce, you need to have an idea and experience of what it is like. My professors gave me tools, but the tools are not helpful unless I can build and create something with them. The TPG experience is also helpful because many internships and shadowing opportunities are unpaid in the animal field. Without the TPG, I would not have been able to spend three months down here working at my dream job.”

Why I Chose Ohio Wesleyan

“I came to Ohio Wesleyan because of the travel opportunities. I was told about the Travel-Learning Courses and the TPG program. I have always wanted to be a student of the world and learn as much as I can and explore as much as possible, and I loved that OWU supported this. While I had planned to take Travel-Learning Courses (and I did! I took Tropical Biology my freshman year and went to Costa Rica!) I never dreamed I would be able to write a proposal that would grant me more opportunities to travel. The opportunities seemed limitless at OWU, and I just couldn’t pass it up.”

My Plans After Graduation

“I plan to apply to graduate school in the future. But before that, I would like to find a job working with animals, either in the wildlife or domestic sector to gain more animal experience. OWU has allowed me to grow my education extensively, even getting a minor in chemistry (a subject in which I thought I was hopeless), and feel confident in myself.

“I am able to brag about my experiences here at OWU and about the prestigious education that comes with my degree. OWU has a large alumni pool, and I have found many alums within my field who encourage me to work with them or are willing to write recommendation letters. OWU has given me knowledge, confidence, and a web of people (alumni and faculty) who support me. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.”