Abbie Hughes, Luther College senior, completed a summer internship with the aquatics department of the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Originally from Aitkin, Minnesota, Hughes graduated from Aitkin High School. She is the daughter of Don and Cathy Hughes of Aitkin, Minnesota.
Hughes was responsible for the care of harbor seals, California sea lions, polar bears, African penguins and tufted puffins. Her daily tasks included cleaning exhibits, hand feeding them daily medication, and providing enrichment- a process that involves bringing in food or objects to induce physical or mental stimulation.
Hughes also was responsible for public speaking events through the zoo's Sparky Shows- public training demonstrations including a discussion on how animals face challenges in the wild. This is the first time the zoo has allowed interns to participate in the shows, and Hughes feels "glad for the opportunity to get to improve [her] public speaking skills and learn what it is like to educate the public about the animals and ways that we can help protect them."
Hughes gained an appreciation of zoos and their conservation efforts through the internship opportunity. As a child, she admired the diversity in animal exhibits at zoos, and was able to further develop her aptitude for animals in caring for them every day.
In the future, Hughes would like to help conserve animal species facing extinction or threats due to climate change. At Como Park Zoo, zookeepers go on trips to assist in conservation efforts in the wild, and Hughes believes this great initiative helps species in the wild and further promotes awareness for these animals. Upon graduation, Hughes would like to work as a zookeeper and work with the animals as she did in completing this summer internship.
Approximately 10 percent of Luther students take an internship for academic credit each academic year. The Luther College Career Center assists students with their internship search through resume preparation, networking, online internship searches, career fairs, on-campus interviewing, and connecting the student to alumni through the college's Alumni Internship Program. Students also meet with a faculty adviser prior to the internship to create an internship learning plan which includes learning goals and assessment benchmarks. An internship work supervisor assists in the process by writing an evaluation of the student at the end of the internship. Students also complete a self-reflection form to help finalize the learning experience.