While my start in animal care came a bit late in life, it has truly been rewarding and soul changing…and having the opportunity to join the team at The Oasis has been a perfect step for me.
I graduated with a degree in Zoo Animal Technology (which is where the nickname ‘Yoch’ began). While in school, I had the unique opportunity to be the animal care technician in the Wildlife and Zoological Medicine ward of the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine. Working with the Clinicians, Residents and Vet students where I got a solid base of animal health and medicine experience.
After graduation I got my first zoo job at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, CO where I worked in the Commissary, the Monkey House and finally spending the last two years working in the Bird/Small Mammal house.
Then I was off to Kansas City Zoo to work in the Australian Aviary (following my love for birds) where I cared for many of the species I found here at The Oasis. After two years I had an opportunity to become a member of the opening team for a new facility – the Animal Kingdom in Orlando Florida – yes, I worked for Mickey Mouse. What an invaluable experience that was. Working with some of the best professionals in the zoo business preparing a facility from conception to reality was amazing.
Back in Wisconsin, my mothers’ health was diminishing and I felt I needed to move closer to her. I became the sole zookeeper at Marshfield, Wisconsins’ municipal facility – Wildwood Zoo. Sadly my mother passed shortly after I began in Marshfield, but I spent the next six plus years in that position.
While I believe zoos have an important role in public education, and with a quality staff and facility the animal ambassadors have a good quality of life. But I began to wonder if my skills could somehow help those less fortunate animals; whatever that meant. It was after accepting a position at China Bear Rescue Center in Chengdu China that I knew there were other paths to take to make a difference. There is no doubt this experience changed my soul and if you don’t know about the suffering of the Moon Bears (Asiatic Black Bears) throughout Asia on bear bile farms I encourage you to take a look. But prepare yourself for unimaginable suffering. I spent almost two years in China and when I returned to the states I was more determined than ever to explore a career path away from zoos.
Since then I have had an assortment of experiences: from wildlife and seal rescue and rehabilitation in Canada, I dabbled in field work with bears and owls, endangered hornbill breeding programs, consulting work with bears in Norway and oil spill training and Pelagic bird rehabilitation in California. Somewhere in the middle of all this I was fortunate to spend three months volunteering at The Oasis, mostly doing construction around the sanctuary. I always say timing is everything and after my third season in Canada I began to feel that I needed to settle down a bit. I inquired about a position I heard the board had approved…and here I am, quite happily settled into the ‘land of misfit birds’. It is a magical place and I am proud to be a member of this team; working each and every day to provide these special birds the quality of life they deserve.