ABERDEEN, S.D. – Alison Byrd remembered visiting the Omaha zoo as a child and decided to take a chance – she contacted the zoo to ask if it had any summer internships.
“I knew it might be a long shot because of the amount of students from bigger schools that are in the area, but you never know unless you try,” said Byrd, who will be a senior this fall at Northern State University.
That leap of faith paid off. Byrd has been working at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha since May. Her internship lasts through July 28.
Now, Byrd’s summer days include taking readings of all the tanks in the aquarium – looking at the dissolved oxygen, salinity and temperature. She checks the tanks for any algae to scrub off using two huge magnets – one on the inside and outside. She also performs tasks as needed for the aquarists.
“No day is the same in that regard either,” she said. “One day I might be doing food prep for the sea turtles and another I might be in the water lab doing water chemistry for an aquarist’s tanks or feeding the resident octopus.”
Her personal favorite days are Wednesdays – or “Shark Feed Day.” It’s all hands on deck, she said, feeding all the animals in Shark Reef, including turtles, sharks and string rays.
The best part of the internship has been the learning experience and being able to see and do things most people only hear about.
“The other day I saw and recorded for a sea turtle blood draw and got to feed rays later in the day…and that was just a Tuesday,” Byrd said.
Byrd’s advice to anyone looking for an internship: apply early and be completely honest.
“I hadn’t had any prior experience with anything I am doing at the zoo, but learning quickly and working hard are two qualities that people pay close attention to,” she said. “And don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. The rewards in the end are always worth it!”
Originally from Aberdeen, Byrd is majoring in biology and environmental science and minoring in chemistry and geography at NSU. After she graduates this spring, Byrd might go to grad school, but she is also strongly considering entering the workforce.
“My internship is helping me realize which areas are more suited for me and my future job, but collectively, field and lab work is where I’m meant to be,” she said.
At NSU, her professors and advisors have been outstanding and willing to help her reach her highest potential.
“From what I have learned so far at Northern, I was able to apply it to my internship making a lot of tasks easier,” Byrd said. “Being able to apply what I have learned to a real-life situation made everything come full circle for me and that’s what it’s about!”
A member of the Wolves soccer team, Byrd originally chose NSU to further her soccer career. She credits Coach Steve Kehm for teaching her that attitude and effort are the only things you can control.
“If you can succeed with that, life is better all around,” she said. “Northern has brought such amazing people into my life and they have changed it for the better.”
About Northern State University
Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.