This was my last full week at the Zoo because I got a job! It’s so bittersweet – I’m excited to have a job as a communications associate at the American Chiropractic Association (I anticipate liking it a whole lot), but it’s also sad to leave FONZ. I’ve had such a great summer here and I’ve gained so many amazing experiences!

Black-tailed prairie dog

Of course this last week was filled with wrapping up projects and tying up loose ends, but I also got to participate in two pretty cool meetings. The first one was a meeting between some of the communications staff here at the Zoo and the design firm that we’ve chosen to work with on the re-design of ZooGoer. The meeting was the first step in the launch of this project. The designer and project manager basically wanted to here from people at FONZ about their vision for the new publication.

We discussed the mission of FONZ and the mission of the new publication as well as the new title and possible features and departments. It was so cool to hear these discussions having been involved in the conceptualization and very early talks about the re-design. I’m just sad I won’t be here to see it all take shape. It’s going to be an interesting process and the final product will be amazing, I’m sure.

Sumatran tiger

I also had the opportunity to attend a paper seminar, which was, just like it sounds, a seminar all about printers and paper choices and how to be environmentally friendly and how to save on printing and paper costs. It doesn’t sound like the most scintillating topic, but it was pretty interesting. First of all, there are a ridiculous number of paper options out there – from super light-weight stark white to super heavy-duty dark black and everything in between. Then there are the environmental options such as using recycled materials or even tree-free papers. I learned that there is a paper made from crushed rocks! And it doesn’t look or feel like it at all. It was way too much to think about – you want your photos to pop, but you want to be environmentally-conscious and you need to work within a set budget too. I’m glad I’m not in charge of making paper decisions for a publication.

Because I don’t have any other animals that I need to visit before I leave (I’ve officially seen them all!), I’ve been making it a point to go back and see as many as I can one last time. Although, I guess it really isn’t the last time since I will be visiting the Zoo plenty in the up-coming months and have even been considering volunteering to be a zoo guide. But, it will be my last visit as a FONZ intern and that feels like a big deal to me. So far I’ve gone back to the gray seals, the California sea lions, the Nile hippopotamus, the prairie dogs, all of the animals in the Small Mammal House, the giant anteaters, and the tigers.

 As this is my last blog entry, I feel compelled to talk about the overall experience of interning at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. I can’t think of a better word to describe these past four months than amazing. I’ve always loved animals and the zoo, but I had no idea the depth of information that I would learn here. I’m leaving with hundreds of fun facts about animals and conservation and sustainability and I’ve come to appreciate those animals that I didn’t necessarily love prior to this internship.

Sumatran tiger cubs – Guntur, Melati and Maharani play in the moat

Besides the facts about the subject matter I’ve learned quite a bit about communications as well. I’ve been continuously developing my writing skills in all areas of communication – magazine features, short blurbs, captions, press release material, radio interviews, fast facts for journalists, etc. I’ve also been able to learn about creating and presenting a unified communications strategy for an organization, how to handle media relations, and what it takes to market a huge establishment like the National Zoo. Additionally, I’ve learned about all aspects of magazine production – not just writing and editing, but photo selection, budgeting, and mailing lists to name a few. Lastly, because of the re-design of ZooGoer, I’ve been able to learn about the proposal process, the design process, the pre-press and printing options, etc. and I’ve been able to view all of these steps in action. I’ve crammed a lot of info and experiences into just four months.


Aw, look at that baby coral

September 5, 2008

We finally got the FONZ 2009 calendar from the printer!! It came out great and its so exciting to see it in print! My supervisor chose a heavier weight paper than the calendar was previously printed on and even that one little change made a huge difference in the overall look (and feel) of the calendar – not to mention all of our work choosing photos and writing captions and quadruple-checking dates, etc.

Photo by JESSIE COHEN/National Zoo Photographer
Coral tank in the Invertebrate House

Part of my week involved hand delivering copies of the calendar to FONZ employees and mailing complimentary copies to all of the people who receive them, such as contributing writers, Smithsonian employees and major donors. I also had to give several copies to the front desk of the visitors center so they can be used as an incentive to join FONZ. It’s a pretty nice free gift if I do say so myself.

Besides continuing to work on written pieces for ZooGoer, one of the highlights of this week was my trip to the Invertebrate House to meet with a keeper who had just returned from collecting coral gametes in Puerto Rico.

We got to see the coral primary polyps that have attached themselves to tiles and begun to grow and develop. The keeper told us all about what it’s like to be in the water when the corals are spawning and how coral grows. It was really cool – i’ve never even thought about how coral forms.

He said that if two or more polyps attach to tiles (or rocks or other corals, etc.) right next to or on top of one another that they will essentially be fighting for space and nutrients rather than joining together to form a larger colony. In some instances, two seprarate coral colonies can grow alongside one another and in that case there will be a distinct line between the two, but it is just as likely that one coral will eventually die off while the other prospers.

Last year the keeper was able to count over 100 live primary polyps after his trip to Puerto Rico. This year, he has already doubled that number and he has only counted a fraction of his tile plates. The Zoo could become home to thousands of baby coral in the next couple of weeks.

Emu – Darwin

On my way to and from the Invertebrate House I passed an exhibit that I walk by at least twice a day, but I rarely stop to look at. The habitat is home to two speices – tammar wallabies that are small and shy and therefore rare to see and a very large bird – an emu named Darwin. I love the wallabies; they are just super cute and furry, but I have only seen them out in their yard twice over the entire summer. Darwin, on the other hand, is not super cute and he is certainly not shy. He is almost always looking for food right along the fence where he can be seen by all who walk by. He is quite the attention-hog. Though he is far from my favorite animal here at the Zoo (it’s a first for me to say that!) it is only fair that I include him – it’s not his fault he’s not as handsome as the giant anteaters or the red pandas.