Batavia, NY- As Genesee Community College’s director of Veterinary Technology, Carrie Caccamise seeks to expose her students to as many facets of the profession as possible. Students in the program work with animals of all sizes in the current curriculum, but they have little exposure to marine life or zoo animals. “While at a conference last summer, I voiced this concern to a colleague,” Caccamise said. “He suggested that I reach out to Ray Ball at the Tampa Zoo, so I did.”
Ball, director of Medical Services at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida, welcomed Caccamise and her students to travel down to the Sunshine State and observe the zoo’s day-to-day dealings with its resident animals during the College’s spring break from March 12-19, 2016. After a flurry of fundraising, Caccamise and a group of eight GCC seniors flew to Tampa to begin the week-long, behind-the-scenes observation and experience that was a first for the College’s Vet Tech program.
“Though the students were unable to restrain or perform procedures due to safety concerns, they were still able to learn a great deal as the veterinarians and veterinary technicians explained everything they did and patiently answered all of our questions,” Caccamise explained.
While at the Tampa Zoo, the students observed exams and treatments on many animals including a penguin, a two-toed sloth, a spur fowl, white and black rhinos, a pig, tortoises, a screech owl and elephants. Animals used in the Zoo’s outreach program including armadillos, tortoises and pythons had wellness exams performed during the week. The exams involved anesthesia, radiographs, ultrasound exams and blood draws. Since these animals are not as friendly as most dogs and cats, the students were able to observe the different techniques for handling and administration of anesthesia during the examinations.
When the students were asked to summarize their experiences, these were among statements they shared: “It was a once in a life time experience.” “The vets and technicians were extremely friendly. Even the zookeepers were very helpful in teaching us.” “It was an awesome trip. Dr. Ball was so friendly and open to helping us learn.” “Mind blowing experience!”
The students also took a trip to the Florida Aquarium to observe exams on horseshoe crabs, eels, stingrays, otters and sea turtles, and a stop at the Marine Mammal Pathobiology Lab to see necropsies on two manatees.
“We were all very impressed with the amount of data collection that occurs in zoos such as the Lowry Park Zoo,” Caccamise said. “The data collected is what helps the animals’ counterparts in the wild stay healthy.”
Housed at the Lowry Park Zoo is a manatee hospital, one of few sites in Florida that rehabilitate injured or sick manatees. During their stay, GCC’s vet tech students also witnessed the treatment of an injured female manatee and her calf. Since adult manatees can weigh up to 1,200 pounds, the students saw the difficult process of getting the animals from the truck they were transported in, to the tank where they will live during their rehabilitation. They also witnessed the end result of the process, experiencing the release of a manatee that was rehabilitated at the hospital and deemed healthy enough to return to the wild.
The group received funding for the trip from Academic Innovations at GCC which contributed $1,000 and the Christina Salvador Scholarship Fund, which pitched in $500. Funds were also raised through the Vet Tech Club at the College and each student did their part to help pay for the trip.
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For a photograph of the students in front of the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa go to:
Standing left to right: Carrie Ohlson, Carrie Caccamise, GCC’s Veterinary Technology program director, Kerri Thomas, Meagan Holman, Ashley Linzy, Amber Elliott. Kneeling: Lyndsey (Allen) Bobzin, Mara Corbett, Mariah Elliott