Chance to Dream | Ohio Wesleyan University


Chance to Dream

Ohio Wesleyan Zoology Major Volunteers to Help Parrots in Costa Rica

By Cole Hatcher

Zynnia Peterson ’23

Name: Zynnia Peterson ’23
home town: Mt Vernon, Ohio
Major: Zoology
Minor: Environmental Science
OWU-Connection experience: Volunteering with the Macaw Recovery Network in Costa Rica

Peterson volunteered with the Macaw Recovery Network’s Punta Islita Breeding Center for a month this summer. After she completed training, Peterson was able to help prepare food for captive and pre-release parrots, monitor their health and behavior, and ensure they had clean and safe living conditions.

Peterson earned an OWU Connection Theory-to-Practice Grant to support her Central American experience and received support in writing and editing her grant application from John Krygier, Ph.D.professor of Environment and Sustainability.

This macaw chick gets a check-up at the Macaw Recovery Network, including being weighed. (Photo by Keiran Ragoonanan)

Ready for Release

“Something I learned specific to parrot conservation is that human aversion and flight training are absolute musts when preparing a flock for release.

“Parrots, being more gregarious birds, can become used to humans in captivity and this can increase their likelihood of being recaptured after release unless they are taught that humans are actually scary, even though not all of them are.

“Flight training then also increases their strength and ability to fly long distances once released as well. A lot of it is just about promoting natural behaviors that parrots learn from other parrots and their environment. Since they’re more intelligent, they have to be taught these things through experience rather than via instinct alone.”

Valuable Volunteering

I also learned that volunteering is a good way to travel. It gives you a group of like-minded people that you get to know really well as long as a safe space to go back to while you still have the ability to explore the local area on your days off.

“While I didn’t immerse myself in Costa Rican culture as I had hoped, I still had the opportunity to meet amazing people from all around the world and form close friendships.”

Identifying What’s Important

“My experience also helped me relax a little bit. I feel like it’s easy to get caught up in the busy lifestyle most Americans have, but being in Costa Rica and only having to worry about a bit of food management (we only drove to the grocery store once a week) and whether I had to do specific chores that day really gave me a new perspective on what I actually viewed as important.

“By the time I made it back home I was able to create new habits that serve me better than some of the wasteful and unpleasant habits I had before.”

ET is one of the macaws Zynnia Peterson ’23 helped to care for at the Macaw Recovery Network. (Photo courtesy of Zynnia Peterson)

my favorite moment

“Even though the purpose of my experience was to learn more about conservation, I would have to say my favorite moment was the night before a fellow volunteer was about to leave. She taught us all some Latin dances and then made Argentinean empanadas.

“Something I unexpectedly loved about my trip was how close you get to everyone on site, especially during our communal dinners. Everyone I met was an absolutely lovely human being, and I hope in the future we can someday meet again.”

Bishop Encounter Benefit

“Unexpectedly my trip did involve an OWU alum. On my plane to Miami, I sat next to Mrs. Marcy Rodgers. She graduated (in 1982), and we were able to chat a lot on the plane and during my layover. She has a lot of experience traveling in Latin America, and she was very helpful and calmed some of my worries about traveling.”

Why I Chose OWU

“I chose OWU because of their affordability with GLCA (Great Lakes Colleges Association), smaller size, easier ability to connect with staff due to the smaller size, as well as their Zoology program.” (Ohio Wesleyan is a GLCA school, and Peterson’s father is employed by another GLCA school.)

My Plans After Graduation

“Until this summer, my future plans were to work in zoology with hopes of improving the pet trade for exotic animals like reptiles and parrots.

“I have recently been looking into requirements for science librarians due to my very enjoyable part-time job at my local public library, which complicates things a bit as far as the experience in conservation.

“No matter which path I choose, I think OWU has prepared me for either with skills in writing, networking, and the ability to work with others from different walks of life.”

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