Monday, November 10, 2014

Toronto Wildlife Centre!!

Hey Guys,
So today for my school Biology Club we had two amazing guest speakers, Julia and June from Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC)!!

 They did an amazing presentation all about urban wildlife biodiversity; specifically the challenges these animals face and what TWC is doing to help them!!

Everyone enjoyed Julia's amazing power point presentation. She conveyed so much important information while still making it really fun. Her stories were hilarious! For example they brought along this funny looking stuffed toy skunk with a plastic ice cream lid around it's neck. After Julia asked who liked ice cream (everyone's hands went up - duh) she explained that skunks do to!! Apparently TWC once found a real skunk with 8 of these trapped around it's neck! The skunk would stick it's head into the cup to lick out the ice cream left behind and when it was finished find that it couldn't get it's head back out! TWC carefully cut the ice cream lid's off and luckily the skunk was soon back in the wild (hopefully slightly the wiser lol!)

Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC) is a leader in the field of wildlife rescue, veterinary care, rehabilitation and education, providing a vital and unique service in Southern Ontario. A registered charity supported primarily by donations, TWC has grown into Canada's busiest wildlife centre – since opening in 1993, hundreds of  thousands of people have received help on TWC’s Wildlife Hotline, and over 74,000 wild animals representing over 270 different species have been admitted for careTWC’s work is carried out by a small group of highly skilled paid staff, and several hundred dedicated volunteers working in all areas of the centre, from wildlife care to administration. (

Just a small selection of the variety of animals TWC cares for all the time. You'll notice the snapping turtle on the far right is pretty badly beaten up. Apparently he got run over by a car and TWC was notified by a vet who was going to euthanize him but didn't know how to. TWC took him in, and below is a photo of him about a year later all healed up! The staff at TWC really are hero's!!

It was really interesting to see the different people who all work at TWC. Veterinarians, Veterinary technicians, Rescue staff, Hotline staff, Wildlife care staff, and so many more! Julia told us about the various programs these people studied, but also explained that the one thing all the people had in common was volunteering!

Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC) is only able to carry out its work thanks to the time, expertise and dedication of hundreds of volunteers. Volunteers are involved in every facet of TWC operations, including administration, education, wildlife rehabilitation and much, much more.  (

It was an amazing inspiring presentation, but Julia and June had one more surprise for everyone....They hadn't come alone! Meet the snapping turtle nicknamed 'Hotdog'!

They explained that Hotdog had been taken out of the wild by someone who didn't know much about turtles. This person had kept him in the house for a few weeks feeding him hot dogs before they realized that snapping turtles don't make good pets. (Unfortunately this story far too familiar to me from stories I hear all the time at Reptilia). Hotdog was taken to TWC but since they don't know where he used to live they can't release him back into the wild encase he carries any diseases which animals in the new area might not be used to. There's also the small problem that he is really tame so if he was out in the wild he'd just walk up to anyone he saw and ask for Hot dogs lol!

Thanks so much for coming in Julia and June! We loved your presentation and I think everyone agrees Hotdog was the best! Lot's of people took brochures so maybe you'll be seeing some familiar faces in your co-op and volunteer programs in the future!

 I know I'm even more excited than I was before to volunteer there next summer  (which is saying something since I've been waiting for it since grade 9! Grin!) Finger's crossed!!!! TWC is definitely on my list of places I would happily work at for the rest of my life!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

McMaster Engineering & Science Olympics!

Hey Guys,
I had an awesome day out at the McMaster University Campus for their Engineering and Science Olympics today! Besides competing with an amazing team and representing the best school ever (go RHHS!) there was tones of other really cool stuff to see and do. I mean for one the campus is just gorgeous!

There was even this random guy driving with this for no apparent reason (well other than it looks fun)

There was also a really cool Planetarium that we got a demo/show of. I didn't manage to get any photos (since it was obviously very dark) but here's a photo from the McMaster Website of it.

Lastly, throughout the day there were lots of Lectures and Demo's that we could choose from. Here's some photos from a very interesting lecture on Engineering and the Brain by Dr. Hubert deBruin! He made the lecture both fun and informative. 

We also sat in on a Lecture/ Demo on Robotics by Dr. Ishwar Singh. The different examples he showed us were super cool!

Dr. Ishwar Singh showing us a robotic hand a student of his is making

This robot had a sensor that detected the dark line and followed it :)

For more information about McMaster University go to  and any students reading this - if you ever get a chance, this is definitely an event to sign up for!


Friday, August 08, 2014

A Walk around Lake Wilcox

Hey Guys

I had today off from work so me and mum went for a walk around Lake Wilcox. We're both going to be there for an 'art in the park' event on the 16th (next Saturday) so were curious what was around the area. Here's what we saw

There was some kind of Kayaking lesson going on

Along with some larger boats tied to a dock

Of course, I quickly gravitated towards the more natural scenery.

This Crested White Drake caught my attention for a while. It allowed me to actually get quite close while it was cleaning itself.

Interestingly enough the Crested White Duck "is a duck breed descended from the Mallard. It has its appearance because it iheterozygous for a genetic mutation causing a deformity of the skull." (

If a duck is homozygous for the mutation (meaning that both of the alleles it has have the mutation rather than just one) then the mutation is fatal and the duck will never be born.

Pretty crazy huh??

I also saw some cool looking pink cone flowers

I have seen this flower before, but the name is evading me - help anyone???

It certainly shows the Fibonacci numbers well though!!

This feather floating in the water caught my eye too. It's amazing how small things can look so cool when you really think about them.

I wasn't the only one taking photos though - look who I spotted!! :D Love you mum!!

It's ok though - she started it!!

It was a great couple of hours and I'm looking forward to having another go next week. If you're in the area why don't you pop by and say hi?!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Interviewing Zookeeper Rick Schwartz

Hey Guys, 
So earlier this year I met this amazing guy called Rick Schwartz on Facebook, who is a Zookeeper and Ambassador for the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. After enthusiastically watching his TV appearances and loving the behind the scene photos, I started wondering how different life might be working at a big zoo like the San Diego Zoo compared to Reptilia. So I asked Rick a few questions and here's the result.

Rick with a double yellow headed amazon called Rio (photo credit: San Diego Zoo global staff)

What type of education did you get/ what would you recommend for someone interested in this field?

Many years ago I went thought Moorpark College's Exotic Animal Training and Management program. And then followed that up with a basic degree. Moorpark's program is a good one, but not the only way to get into a career of animal care and conservation. In fact most jobs now require a minimum of a bachelors degree in a field of study that is relatable to animal are such as biology, ecology, zoology and even behavioral sciences as well.
Though the book work & the education are important, just as important is hands on experience.  Working with animals is a science, but it is also a learnt art in some ways. Reading an animal and understanding the subtleties of animal behavior come with experience. A great way to gain experience is to volunteer at a local shelter, horse boarding ranch, vet clinic or even a wildlife rehabilitation center. Expect to start with the dirty work of picking up poop and cleaning up after the animals. That is after all a big part of animal care, keeping their environment clean. Last thing I recommend, ask a lot of questions. Especially when volunteering, its a great way to learn more.

Photo of the Cougar exhibit at the San Diego Zoo (photo credit: Rick Schwartz)

Wise words Rick. Cool to see that the things I've been doing such as volunteering at Canyon hill Animal Hospital and then working at Reptilia are good steps towards potentially working at a much larger zoo! He's not joking around though guys when he says to expect some dirty work. If there's one thing all animals seem to be too good at it's going to the bathroom! (Some animals go a lot and they have the worst timing - grin)

Rick with Cheetah ambassador Shiley and his amazing team on Good Morning America with Gio Benitz and Cecily Tynan (Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo global staff)

What does your average day consist of?

The average day for a zookeeper is usually very busy. Keeper work is physical labor that also requires good communication with other keepers, supervisors, vet staff and of course zoo guests.

First part of the morning is checking on all of the animals, then usually a quick meeting with fellow keepers to discuss the plan for the day. From there it is cleaning and feeding followed by record keeping. Some zoos use computers for daily records and others use a daily diary of hand written records. These records are shared with other keepers and vet staff, so written communication skills, computer skills and good hand writing are important. From there we usually do keeper talks for the guests of the zoo and some zoo's have formal presentations that the keepers do at scheduled times. There are also occasions where we have summer school kids visiting for special programs or we host local news media on grounds and so on. I guess you might say the average day is anything but average given all the different things that happen at the zoo! 

Rick with a baby Koala Bear (Photo credit: San Diego Zoo global staff)

On average we work 8 hours a day, but sometimes there are days we do overtime if there is a special event or if the animals need our care beyond the needs of an average day. And I think the biggest thing that a lot of people don't realize, we work weekends and holidays. The animals don't care what day it is, who's birthday it might be or what holiday we are celebrating. They still need fresh water, food and a clean home everyday.  Zoo keepers tend to have non-traditional days off like a Monday & Tuesday, or Wednesday & Thursday.  And you usually have different days off than your coworkers to make sure there are always keepers at the zoo to take care of the animals. 

Being a zoo keeper isn't just a job. its a way of life.

A Meerkat relaxing at the San Diego Zoo - while the keepers may be constantly on their feet this guy's taking it easy
 (Photo Credit: Rick Schwartz) 

Sounds remarkably similar to the work we do at Reptilia! Would love to hear more about Rick's experiences as an ambassador though. As I'm sure you've noticed from some of the photos he often makes appearances with the animal ambassador teaching the public about these amazing animals. Uh oh Rick - sounds like I've got more questions for you!! Grin.

What is the best part and the hardest part about your job?

I'd have to say the best part of the job is having the opportunity to take care of some of the most amazing animals on the planet. And with that, we become deeply connected with these animals,  and their species.  Usually we spend more time with these animals than we do our human family. And thus, the animals become like a family to us.  In a close second to that being the best thing about the job, is the opportunities we have as keepers to inspire and educate people about animals, environments & conservation. 

Rick with a Desert Tortoise filming for the San Diego Zoo Kid's Channel 

That said, it should come as no surprise that the hardest part of the job is out living the animals you take care of.  Many species live as long as humans, but many others naturally have a shorter life span.  We are blessed to have the deep connections that we have with the animals we care for, but it is never easy having to say good-bye.

Photo Credit:San Diego Zoo global staff

Thanks for the great info Rick and keep up the amazing work you do at the San Diego Zoo!!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

It's a bird's World

Hey Guys,
Had a play with one of the lenses I haven't used before today (Canon 300mm if your curious) and sat on our deck taking photos of the birds. Here's what I saw

At first the birds kept a bit of distance, sitting in the trees watching me.

Then this little girl (probably a female house finch? Why are so many birds brown! grin) got brave and flew over.


Isn't she pretty?

Suddenly a large shadow passed over head. I looked up to see an Osprey!

We've seen this bird twice before but never been 100% certain of what is was (never sticks around for long). No doubt now that it's an Osprey. I wander where it's catching it's fish?

I wonder what the hawk family thinks? It wouldn't be competition for food, but it's still a lot bigger than they are!

Once the osprey had flown by a couple of Red Winged Blackbirds came to the feeders.

You can see some downy feathers sticking out behind it's legs. Perhaps it's still young?

Fluffy head!

I guess even in the bird world, you gotta go when you gotta go....

The blackbirds bully the other smaller finches when they are at the feeders, so my little house finch had a look in the flower pots for seeds instead.

Got one!

They're a bit like small kids really...."I'm the king of the castle..."

Then I noticed this bird sitting in a willow tree. I doubt I would of even noticed if it wasn't for that bright red marking on the back of it's neck.

I looked in my bird book and I'm pretty sure it's a Northern Flicker, which is a type of woodpecker. While I've never seen one before, apparently they are fairly common here from April to October and love open deciduous woodlands and forest edges, fields, meadows and wetlands so it sounds like this guy should be right at home!

Between the Osprey and the Northern Flicker I had tones of fun. Why don't you get outside and see what birds you can spot? Bring a camera to take photos or just some binoculars and have some fun!