Not Your Typical Lab Experience

July 16, 2013

Writer: Spencer Allen

It might not be lions, tigers, and bears, but students in the Department of Animal and Food Science are working closely with a diverse group of animals. Straying from the typical association with horses and cattle, this semester the group is working with animals from the four corners of the world including penguins, zebras, and lemurs.

Toward the end of last semester, Jerry Severe, an instructor in the Department of Animal and Food Science, began to consider ways to make his class more meaningful. Knowing that the materials learned in class are best retained when applied in a lab setting, he focused on giving his students a "real world" lab experience. After a few phone calls and meetings, Severe established a working relationship with a handful of animal health organizations at which his students could volunteer. In addition to the animal shelter in Idaho Falls, his students are helping out a Cannon Dairy, the Tautphaus Park Zoo, and the Ashton Fish Hatchery.

"The chance to volunteer at these organizations not only fulfills the 40 hours of lab time each student must complete by the end of the semester, but it provides a one-of-a-kind experience," said Severe. "My students have taken the project on with an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm. The stories that they bring back and the excitement in their eyes is exactly what I was searching for at the end of last semester. Their learning in and out of the classroom has grown. Their passion is contagious and the end result is an incredible learning environment."

While volunteering, students are involved in a wide range of activities. Duties vary from vaccinating and palpating cattle, cleaning living areas and sterilizing toys for animals, preparing food and on some occasions, feeding the animals.

"I have really enjoyed volunteering at these organizations," said Zach Wright, a senior majoring in Animal Health and Veterinary Science. "Not only do I get a chance to interact with veterinarians, but the experience is opening up doors that otherwise could not be opened. For instance, it is near impossible to work at a zoo full-time without prior zoo work experience. This class has given me the necessary experience needed before I even think about applying for an internship. In addition, the labs have given me a chance to try out different areas within animal health and find what I enjoy the most."