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‘Amazing Experience’ with Animals Leads to Career Goal

Conservation biology major aims to be animal rehabilitator

Macallan Durkin, a junior majoring in conservation biology, developed her passion for animals early in life.

Back home in Poughkeepsie, New York, she has an array of animals you might not expect to find in a private home: a hedgehog, a Patagonian cavy (a rodent native to South America), a coatimundi (a native of the raccoon family native to SouthAmerica), a leopard gecko, a frog, stick bugs, snails, turtles, a red-tailed boa, and her most recent acquisition - a baby pig. Her family takes care of the animals while Durkin's at school.

Her passion for animals was shaped by the three years she and her family spent living in Botswana. Durkin volunteered there at a local animal rehabilitation center. One day, a warthog ran into a campfire and was badly hurt. Durkin helped nurse the animal, which came to be known as Rosie, back to health. Eventually, Rosie was released back into the wild. A couple of years later, Durkin and others from the center returned to the area where Rosie had been released and found her doing well with babies of her own. "It was such an amazing experience," said Durkin, who returned with her family to the United States when she was 11 years old.

Her goal is to become a certified animal rehabilitator; she is also interested in animal behavior research. She has already passed the exam portion of the certification progress and is working toward getting experience. During the summer of 2015, she gained some experience in the field at ESF's Cranberry Lake Biological Station, where she assisted on a Blanding's turtle study. The study focused on maintaining population and monitoring their reproduction and survival because they are listed as a threatened species in New York state.

Durkin is an intern at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse and an occasional volunteer at the Page Wildlife Center, an animal rehabilitation center in Manlius, New York. She hopes to go to Namibia this summer to work with the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

- By Yocasta Pichardo '16