PCGS Student Internship Blogs


The PCGS  Academic Capstone Experience (ACE) blog is designed to showcase the internship and research experiences of our students. These students travel the world to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it in the areas that most interest them.

Please feel free to comment on the blogs and interact with the students through questions, comments, and thoughts on their research and internship sites.

If you are interested in our internship opportunities, please contact Rhiannon Roberts, PCGS Internship Coordinator, at rhiannon@usf.edu.

Rhinos, Penguins, and Internships…oh my!

Things have picked up quite a bit with the zoo and the aquarium, so I haven’t blogged in a while. The aquarium surveys are going well, I’ve gotten 10 people taking the survey each day the last few attempts. The dolphins have also been cooperating, so that’s nice. The zoo has opened up its “Dinos Alive” exhibit, which has meant a lot of marketing opportunities for us interns, as well as some fun on-site. We’ve been delivering dinosaur themed gifts to the local hotel employees, including “mochasaurus” and “tea-rex” mugs. I also attended Feast with the Beasts, an evening where local restaurants came to the zoo and provided endless samples. At this event the zoo was also open to the guests, and it was great fun to drink wine while watching the elephants frolic.

Most exciting recently was when the marketing team was invited to attend the rhino encounter, where we fed one of the rhinos and were given a short introduction to rhino biology and conservation. This talk was also the start of my capstone project, where I will be assessing the narrations on-site, so it was incredibly valuable.

Here are some recent photos from my internships, one is during the rhino feeding, the other is a selfie with Rocky at FLAQ.

“I Do at the Zoo”

The Knot, the “#1 trusted authority for all things wedding” as it says on their website, held an informational meeting today at the zoo. This is a quarterly meeting held at different venues throughout the year for those who work locally in the wedding industry. The zoo does host weddings and decided to also host this meeting this quarter. It was super interesting to see how the zoo sets up for a wedding and I even got to meet a clouded leopard cub (one of the “animal ambassadors” that may make an appearance at a wedding held on-site) and a snake. I got to hear some marketing techniques used to snag the millennials, as the theme of this meeting focused on how to get millennials to go to contract with you (be it vendors, florists, photographers, wedding planners, you name it). It was super interesting, being someone going through this process now as “the bride”, and learning the techniques used by vendors to land me as a client. Some things I identified with, others I did not. Some recommendations I thought were great, others I was’t too sure about (using LinkedIn to connect with your brides & grooms?) Overall, it was a fun experience and I even walked away with a copy of The Knot magazine (hello, planning!) and a zoo themed mug for their new Dinos exhibit.

Oh yeah…everyone go see the Dinos!!

First day of Clearwater Marine Aquarium

When I started my first semester at PCGS, I was taking core classes to learn everything I possibly could in order to be able to narrow down to concentrate on what means the most to me. I also wanted to take internship opportunities to gain field work. As I was discussing with my internship coordinator possibilities, she said PCGS started a partnership with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for internship opportunities. I felt this was a perfect fit for me! I applied for nonprofit management but ended up being accepted for dive operation team. After I found out I had been accepted, I cried from joy that the steps I took towards to that point is finally falling into place.

When I showed up at CMA for my first day of internship, I was really nervous about how to communicate with the team and my supervisor. It turned out they had a white board on the wall ready for communication as necessary. I was relieved by their thoughtfulness on alternative forms of communication. However, they went ahead with hands-on demonstration of what to do around CMA. I was surprised when they told me to put on a wetsuit, scuba dive equipment and get into the pool! The first pool we had to get into was the Sawyer’s Passage, filled with different turtles of various injuries.

They showed me the proper way to clean and the proper equipment to clean with. As I was observing the volunteer diver and their cleaning technique, I had a funny feeling. I went to look above and saw a humongous turtle aim for my hair that was flowing upwards! Their mouth was open and seemed ready to take a bite! In a panic, I moved backwards and circled around the turtle. The turtle still followed me, aiming for my hair. I didn’t realize my hair looked delicious to the turtle! It continued for 5 minutes, which was the longest 5 minutes of my life thus far. Finally, the other diver noticed and went to help gently push the turtle away from me. I signed to him, “thank you!” and he signed “welcome!”. Phew!

From that day on, I knew it would be exciting to work at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Starting my journey

My story with environmental advocacy began the day I found out about the BP oil spill in 2010. I was a simply naive 18 year old Florida native that thought the Earth has infinite resources and that it was impossible for humans to have a tremendous impact through our activities. As I watched the aftermath of the BP oil spill, I had heard of people finding oil balls on beaches along the Panhandle. I was livid at the thought of the beauty of the ocean and beaches being ruined by an oil spill that occurred miles away.

Few months later, my friends and I traveled from Tallahassee to Destin to have fun at the beach. I was so excited about getting some time at the beach! When we arrived there and set up our things, we finally got to go into the ocean. As my friend and I were floating and talking, I had not noticed anything at first until I saw a dark ball go by. Puzzled, we went to go investigate it. My friend had picked it up and it reeked of oil. We immediately made the connection to the BP oil spill that had occurred a few months back. I was livid that the oil balls were still in the ocean and that the BP company was not making effort to clean up the mess thoroughly. From there, my life changed.

I started researching different topics regarding climate change from that point on, but was always overwhelmed by the complexity of perspectives and approaches, as well as problems. I would talk about it with friends when I attended Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. I also joined as a member to Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, and Green Gallaudet Club. I tried my best to get involved however I could with nonprofit organizations volunteering my time and efforts throughout college and after. But I always craved for more involvement. I felt I was not doing enough.

It was not until I went to Climate Reality conference in Miami, FL that I felt a calling. Spending time with empowered activists, business leaders, climate change experts and environmental educators inspired me to explore different paths that I could connect with. As I was watching my interpreter interpret Al Gore’s comment on the growth of green economy regarding solar jobs, renewable energy innovations, and job creations, that comment stuck to my mind for some reason I couldn’t identify at first. But at that point, I knew I had to learn more about what the green economy pillars is made up of.

“I tried my best to get involved however I could with nonprofit organizations volunteering my time and efforts throughout college. But I always craved for more involvement. I felt I was not doing enough.”

Afterwards, I went to a different conference hosted by the National Association for the Deaf that was focused on language acquisition, improving educational opportunities, and removing barriers to job opportunities. As I discussed with different people at the conference, I noticed a common barrier faced by deaf people which is that job opportunities and job training are not readily accessible for the deaf to take initiative on. At that point, I was able to make the connection of addressing a social issue experienced in my community and turning that into job opportunities that could also promote the growth of green economy in the United States. That connection led me to Patel College of Global Sustainability, thus I am here today to study Sustainable Entrepreneurship.

I am very excited to be here and share my journey with you all.

Quick Dolphin Update

This post is going to be a quick one!

My surveying at the aquarium is still working out some kinks. Some of the naturalists/narrators will mention that I’m on board, others do not. Yesterday I took the microphone a couple of times to give my rundown about the survey, but did not individually approach groups of people. The best success I had was when I made an announcement as folks were standing in line, and then with the naturalist mentioning (3 times!) that I was on board doing this survey. Then I made myself accessible to guests on board and asked a few if they’d want to take it. I do now have some little goodies to give out to those who take the survey and perhaps that will help next week. Every day is different in the way guests are brought on board and which naturalist is presenting, so I have to be flexible, but also have to figure out the best way to go about this project that works best in all scenarios.

Despite my lack of participation with the survey, we did have a wonderful cruise yesterday. We reached just before the point we usually turn back to head to the dock when we found ourselves in the middle of a feeding nursery group. The naturalist pointed out that their behavior was very odd, and she believed that a female in that pod may have been giving birth. I agree that the behavior was a bit strange but didn’t even consider that possibility! We saw them from about 50 ft out and then close enough to the boat that if we could reach the water we could have touched them. What was so strange was that they hung out in that spot right next to the boat. Usually, when dolphins are checking out boats that are passing through they still move around and give what I refer to as the “sideways eye”, where they continue to travel but keep one eye on the boat. Not yesterday, they were seemingly hovering right next to the vessel. I’d never seen 3 dolphins do that at once!

That’s all I’ve got this week! But here’s a picture from the trip!


“Someone Told Me it’s All Happening at the Zoo”

Yesterday was my first day at the zoo! Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has been my favorite zoo since the first time I visited, despite having grown up close to the famous Bronx Zoo. Something about Lowry Park Zoo is just different, and yesterday I was able to put a finger on it. It’s the people. We visit zoos to see the animals and maybe learn something new, but we rarely take into account the people that make the zoo what it is!

I met with Pam, who I will refer to as my boss, when I walked in yesterday morning. I got a very warm greeting and was introduced to the educator who would be giving us our behind-the-scenes tour that morning. I was a bit early and we got to chatting about how long he’d worked there, where he had worked before (Florida Aquarium’s summer camp– just like me! One year before!), and a little bit about the zoo. What stood out to me most, other than his abundance of knowledge about the animals, was how he knew every single person we passed on the tour and always greeted them with a warm hello. I’m not sure if anyone else has experience this before, where you walk into a place and instantly feel just…right, but that’s what happened yesterday.

After the tour we met back up with our boss (myself and three other interns) and went over our responsibilities as the Contemporary Marketing Team. We then met the other marketing and sales staff, who were all incredibly friendly and eager to have our help. One of the full-time veterinarians happened to be in the marketing office, and asked what I was studying. I mentioned my undergrad was in animal science and I’m currently working on my degree in sustainable tourism. He lit up and asked”at the Patel College at USF?” I — of course — replied, yes, and he mentioned wanting to connect to talk about working together on a project. Of course, again, I said yes! I can’t wait to see what we come up with! Finally, when we met some more of the staff, my boss had me mention what I was studying to these folks (because I’m the only non-marketing/advertising/communications intern), they too were eager to get together and talk. One woman went so far as to say they need to set up a meeting with me. I truly hope that we can all get together and chat about ideas for the zoo. I knew that this internship was going to be an interesting one, studying something I haven’t done before, but I didn’t realize how quickly I could make connections and put my sustainable tourism degree to use in different ways! Can’t wait to get back to it next week!


And now for something completely different

After a relaxing break, I got started at both of my internships this week. The first was with Lowry Park Zoo’s Contemporary Marketing Team, where I went through an initial orientation and a small walk-through of the zoo (which happens to be my favorite zoo!) My specific CMT coordinator has been in touch about a start date for the week of the 16th, and I can’t wait to get started. I don’t have any specific “marketing” experience other than what I have done as an marine science educator. I’m excited to see what skills translate between education and marketing and hopefully learn a lot more!

Today I observed the Wild Dolphin Tour at the Florida Aquarium, where I am doing– yes, I know– another internship. What’s great about this internship is that I got to design it. I went forward to the volunteer coordinator for FLAQ (who we at PCGS now have a partnership with…and she is fantastic!) and told her what I was interested in. As a sustainable tourism student, my interests lie in the role/responsibility that AZA accredited zoos and aquariums have in teaching the public about sustainability and conservation. For this internship, I’m looking particularly at the effect their Wild Dolphin Cruise messaging has in inspiring Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin conservation knowledge and efforts. I am curious to see if after the cruise, any behaviors (of the guests) are potentially going to change. It’s been challenging coming up with an unbiased survey, and I hope it does the trick! I’m asking things such as “have you heard of dolphin SMART before?”, “how likely are you to recommend this cruise?” and “would you be willing to donate to a bottlenose dolphin conservation effort?” both before and after the cruise to see if there was a spark of inspiration from the cruise narration. I have no idea if this is going to work- but that’s the great thing about this internship! I get to try and see what happens.

I’m looking forward to reporting on more as I continue!