Wild Spartans: Science in Zookeeping & Conservation with Caitlin Mack

November 10, 2020

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Are you a Wild Spartan? Join 4-H staff as we meet scientists from across Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Take a look into life working with fisheries and wildlife! Follow along as we climb through bogs, peer into bear dens, mist net songbirds, snorkel for fish, or perhaps even tag deer. Meet researchers, learn about their field work, and the education and career path they've followed to get there.

In this episode, we head to the sub-Sahara to learn about African painted (wild) dogs. Meet MSU graduate researcher, Caitlin Mack, learn about her work on the social behavior and conservation of these rare carnivores, and the education and career path she followed as she discusses “Science in Zookeeping and Conservation.”

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Video Transcript

(Music and Crickets chirping)This program is created by Michigan 4H, Michigan State University Extension, MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Tonight on the call, we've got 47 families that have registered for the program and 64 youth that have signed up, participating from all across Michigan. And we've got friends signed up from Illinois and also Utah on the call. Glad to see all of you here. I'd like to introduce tonight's moderators for the program. My name is Laura Quist I am a 4H program coordinator. I'm based out of Wexford County. We've also got Anne Kretschmann who's joining the call. She is representing the UP. She's up from Houghton and Keweenaw counties Veronica Bolhuis is from the Kalamazoo area. She's a 4H staffer. Also Seth Martin on the call. He is with the 4H program from Macomb county. And also on the call is Dr. Alexa Warwick, she's a Wildlife Engagement Specialist with MSU and MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife out of East Lansing. For those of you new to 4H, want to let you know that 4H probably typically thought of focusing on agricultural issues, kinda like plows and cows. But actually, we're the largest statewide youth development organization in Michigan. And we focus on a variety of project areas. In this new monthly series called 4H Wild Spartans, we're going to explore careers in wildlife conservation. We're gonna meet scientists involved in field work . We will follow along with them as they climb through bogs, peer into bear dens, they will mist net songbirds, snorkel for fish and maybe even tag deer. We will meet these researchers, we'll learn about their fieldwork and the education and career paths that they followed to get there. And if you're interested, we'll join along on these wildlife themed areas and, and maybe even you can learn how you can start one of these 4H wildlife themed clubs, right in your own county. Tonight's program will last around 30 minutes. During the program will have all participants muted and the cameras will be off. However, you are welcome to type in the chat. And the chat is right down at the bottom of your computer or your phone screen there. And if you type into the chat, our 4H staff are going to be able to see that and we will answer and respond to your questions. You type into the Q and A feature, that's the Q and A button at the bottom of your screen there. Those questions we're going to share, right with tonight's guest and our guest, Caitlin, she's going to answer those questions live during the program. So if you have any questions at all about the research that she's doing or what life is like working at the zoos and doing these research things. Be sure to ask Her. Don't hold back. That's why she's here, to share with you. And also we're going to have some polls during tonight's program. And we want you to play along when you see a poll and it pops up on your screen, be sure to answer, to answer those questions, right as the questions pop up. After, the program, we're going to share with you, some websites. Be sure to click on those for more information. We record the program so you can share it. You can watch it again. You can share it with some friends. You can share it with your teacher. They can show it in the classroom. And we'll also post other resources if you want to follow up and learn more about it. All of those resources will be shared on the webpage and we'll share that, that webpage with you later on in the program. But for now, I'm going to turn the program over to Dr. Alexa Warwick so she can tell us a little bit more about the speaker tonight. And to also give us a little bit of a sneak peek about what we'll be talking about in December's program as well. Alexa? (Alexa Warwick "AW" ) Ok. So it is my pleasure to introduce Caitlin Mack for tonight's speaker. She is currently a graduate student at Michigan State University and is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, horseback riding, and hanging out with her dog. And we'll get to hear a lot more about what she does in her not so spare time tonight. So I will let you take over Caitlin in terms of putting slides up. And I'm going to shoot a quick poll out as, as you're getting those slides going. And just let people launch that here. And Caitlin, I'd say take it away! (Caitlin Mack " CM") Hey Everyone. Good evening. Can't believe we are in November. Okay, so as Dr. Warwick said my name is Caitlin Mack, I'm a graduate student at Michigan State. And today I'll be talking about my experience of using science in the zoo keeping and conservation. So some of my research and kind of how I got to where I am today. So first off, I've got to get PowerPoint work properly. Okay. So first off to start off with talking about what can you even research in a zoo? Cuz that's where most of my research is based, is specifically in zoos and not so much in the wild. So some of the things that you can research include looking at the behavior. You can look at lots of different kinds of behavior. So looking at, look at social behavior, you can look at how animals play with each other. They're different personalities. If you may have noticed in your, if you have pets at home, you may have some that are more shy than others, some that like to play more than others. You can see how the animals interact with their, their food, how they allow cats like to play with their food, et cetera. You can also look at the physiology of animals. So looking at their hormone levels. So just like in us, our animals have hormones that tell them when to do certain things. Can also look at different health issues in animals, so. Many animals in a wild, they might have certain diseases or have certain kinds of injuries that are more common. And we can use animals who are in a zoo to be able to look at some of those issues because they are more used to people. And then we can also look at reproduction. So a lot of these animals in zoos we work with are, they're very rare, that a lot of them are what are called endangered. So there's not a lot of them left. So we have to, we might have to aid in them to help have as many babies as possible. So that way we can grow their population. We want to figure out how we can help them have happy, healthy babies and good, good lives. So as you can see, there's a lot of different things you can research in a zoo. So, but one of the important things for research is for it to have a use. So I would love to just go and research whatever I wanted too all day and just go watch animals all day. I would love that. Unfortunately, that can't happen. So some of the things that this can be used for, taking better care of the animals. So with a lot of these animals being being rare or being uncommon, we may not know a lot about their very basic biology. So what kind of nutrition they need, what kind of stimuli do they have, so do they do they need a lot of different kind of toys? For example, for something like, like monkeys or do they need a lot of space like some other animals? So we wanted to be able, when we have these animals in our care, such as in a zoo setting or in a rehabilitation setting, we want to make sure we are taking care of them As best as we're able to. But besides that, you can also use this research to inform current conservation efforts to try and save these animals in their natural habitats. And we can use them to better understand their wild Wild counterparts. Because somebody's animals can be very hard to find in the wild. Could be because maybe they live in like a super thick jungle. And so it's really hard to get researcher all the way out there. So these animals can help us learn some of that more basic science, more basic biology that we can use to just learn about these species in general. And then we can also, get the animals introduced to, test some type of equipment that we, scientific equipment that we may use before using it on their wild counterparts. And I'll give an example of that in a couple of slides. So one way that we can help use this research to help animals take better care is by getting those animals involved in their own veterinary care. So many zoos are working with their animals so that way they can have a choice in the medical care that they're given. So, you know. Going to the doctor, it's not pleasant, but it's necessary. So its a lot less stressful if we have some idea what's going on. So in this example, you see in these pictures here of a cheetah. This is helping to train a cheetah to allow it to be given injections such as vaccines or medicine. So what they're doing here is they train it to come down the chute worth it's given food and they let it get comfortable there. And make sure it's nice comfortable, it's not stressed. And so then a lot of times they might do blood draws through the tails you can see here. So they'll before they have to do it at the actual vet exam, they'll get the cheetah used to having its tail being handled. And then they will get it used to the the feel of a needle of an injection. So though, you know, just kinda tap it with a needle and and so they'll build up as and so by the time you get to the actual day of the exam, the cheetah doesn't care. It's getting fed. Its happy. It's with people it's comfortable with, so that it makes it a lot less stressful and also a lot less dangerous for both the cheetah in the handlers. So it makes it a better situation for everyone and it gives that, that cheetah a choice of being involved in its veterinary care. They're not forcing the animal to, to go into that chute. It's making that choice to go into that. So giving animals choices makes it a lot less stressful for them, a lot less stressful for keepers, which is better for everyone else. So it mentioned in the previous side, research can be used to test equipment before using out in the field. So when I was at a zoo called The Wilds down in southern Ohio, we looked at a testing these trackers and Przewalski's horse. So Przewalski's horse are the only true wild horse. They're native to Mongolia. And you might have seen in some different animals looking at like the tracking collars that they use to look at where they are in their movements. See usually, you know, they go around the neck. So you've seen that on like lions and deer and all sorts of things. Well, when you have them on horses, especially the young male horses, they play really roughly, if some of you have experience with horses at home, you know. They play very roughly and sometimes they go, you know, they tried to bite at the neck. While that would destroy any sort of tracking collar that you have. So researchers were trying to find a different location to put the tracking device on to, so that way they could still use it without it getting destroyed by just regular horses playing. So they came up with the idea to have a tracker and braid it into the horses, the horses tail. So we're at the Wilds where I was at We had herd of Przewalski's horses, including herd of young males. known as Bachelor herd. So we test it out with them. So this little thing here was a dummy tracker. So it's not the actual tracker, but it mimicked the same dimensions and weight. So since we had more easy access to these animals, we could more closely monitor how, how well did it stay on? And so when we brought these horses in for a checkup, we braided it into their tail and kind of adhere to it with sort of glue. And so we then monitored over the next couple of weeks to see how long would it stay on and it stayed on the whole time, which was great. So doing something like this gives researchers, researchers an idea of can we, Something like this work out in the wild? And so before they invest a lot of money, a lot of resources in developing the technology for getting these actual trackers and then putting them on the horses. We can then test it in a more controlled environment here. So that research, the testing was done at The Wilds, but the research was being done by biologists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology institute. So now I'm going to just move on to what I do more specifically for my research. Kind of the process of coming up with my research question. So first off, just an overview, you know, what is the actual process of scientific research? So this is just that, this is very general. First is coming up with a research question. There's a lot involved in that. After you have your research question, you have to actually design your research projects. So how are you going to, you know, figure out be the answer to this question? What sort of data are you going to collect? What sort of things are you going to measure? So then you actually collect the data. So then, and then you have to analyze it. And from that analysis you then come up with conclusions to your original research question. So with zoos that there's a lot of different kinds of animals in zoos. There's a lot of different kinds of issues that might be good for research. So, you know, there was a process involved and me coming up with the research question for my master's thesis. So, you know, one of the first things to figure out is, what species are you studying? There's a lot of different species. As you can probably tell. There's anything from little insects all the way up to elephants and whales. So figuring out what species are you studying? Once you've figured that out, what kind of issues is that species facing both in the wild, the wild counterparts and also in captivity. So in a zoo or rescue type situation. Because certain animals have different needs. Both of their actual habitat and also of their for their care. And then, you know, so a lot of research may have already been done. So we also want to look at what kind of information do people caring for them or the people involved in their conservation in their wild habitat actually need. So that way it's, what you're researching is useful to them. Once again, looking at what kind of research has already been done. So for my research, I'm specifically looking at how do pups effect, or, you know, puppies affect the behavior of their parents as they grow up. So African painted dogs, also known as a few different species names like African wild dogs, cape hunting dogs, etc. They are a social canid, so like wolves they live in packs. And it's usually for them, it's usually the, the the parents and then there's a bunch of other adults that help to care for the young of those parents. And so sometimes it might be multiple generations of dogs living in the same pack. So they are very much a family animal. They take care of the pups. So actually when they may, they hunt down prey, and make a kill, actually the puppies will eat first. So that way they can get as much as growing puppies need, which is usually a lot. So and they also take care of their injured and elderly, which I really like about them. So they can also be in a captive setting. They can also be very sensitive to any kind of changes and they're in their pack. So if a member has to be moved somewhere else for some reason, you know, there particularly sensitive to that situation. And we want to be able to take care of them and keep, not caused them more stress than needs to happen. So in terms of how I came up with my research question, I made a very, very heavy point of talking with those who actually care for painted dogs and are involved in their conservation. So lots of talking with zookeepers and those who are involved in the conservation, both in the wild and in zoos over in the US. I also did a lot of reading of what sort of research has already been done. So a lot of, there have been packs of painted dogs who've been followed for several years over in some of their native habitat in Sub-Saharan Africa. So I read a lot of that research comes in finding out a lot of their basic behavior. And then also looking at . (Veronica Bolhuis "VB") Caitlin, we do have some questions for you. So how many pups to they have at a time and how long are they pregnant? (CM)So they so they're only pregnant about two months. And they have a lot of puppies . So average litter size is about eight to ten pups. They could have upwards, upwards of 20 pumps in one litter. So there's a lot to do. (VB) They typically all, survive or what are, what's one of their predators? (CM)So in, so in the wild Actually I'm lions, my predate on them, especially the young ones, sometimes hyenas as well. Painted dogs and hyenas will actually directly compete for food a lot the time because they eat similar sized animals. But typically all pups don't typically survive. That's part of the advantage of having lot of pups is because there are so many ways that those pups can unfortunately pass away before they're adults. But hopefully some of these pups will make it. So it might be around like 50% of pups survive to adulthood. So yeah. (VB) And our next question is, what has been your most incredible experience in this field? (CM) (thinking)I have quite a few different ones. But one that's kind of directly related to my, more directly related to my research is I come from a background. I just love watching animals, period. I always have. I love being able to watch these dogs and see their different personalities. As I watch them several times over the course of a year and see them grow up because some of these puppies I'm seeing from when they're, you know, they're tiny little things are so cute and see them grow up very fast. And just watching them play is absolutely amazing. But I also got in to, I'll go into a bit some of what my background is. But I've interned at a zoo and I got to work with rhinos and actually got to watch one of the baby rhinos kind of grow up over time. That was incredible. I got to see him when he was a week old. So that sounds really cool. So I mean, all sorts of different things. (VB) Wonderful, And so why did you choose your job? (CM)I'm so for me I'll kind of get into that in a couple slides. But it's, it stemmed from a really, really strong interest in animal behavior. Why do animals do to things that they do? You know, seeing how they interact with each other has always been of interest of mine since I was a kid. Grew up starting to watch my own animals. (VB) And how much time do you spend behind the desk versus in the field? (CM) So for my research right now it's a lot of time behind the desk. But so and actually just, you know, that's actually good jumping off point. So with my research that I do, I spent time actually add a bunch of different zoos watching their painted dog packs. So I was out there all day videoing the dogs watching their packs. And I would go, you know, a few visits over the course of a year. So so last summer I was traveling a lot. I went outside, a lot. Including in some very hot weather because one of the zoos was down in Florida. Very hot, very humid. But one of the zoos I researching at is Binder Park Zoo. So this picture here is of their pack. And they were very interested in my camera setup. So when I was out, actually actively watching the dogs, actively collect data. But I was outside a lot in a lot of different conditions. So I got to be in the field a lot then. But with the actual data collection being done and right now, I'm kind of in the the analyzing portion. It's alot of sitting behind a desk. Cause I have all these these videos of these dogs and I'm looking at what behaviors that they did, kinda, how long they did it for. So over on the left just something different behaviors I'm looking for. So that's all on a computer, so you know, so there's it's mostly behind a desk right now. But in Michigan during the winter, that's not necessarily a bad thing. So luckily, with these guys being to more warm weather animals. I did not have to sit in the cold a lot to watch them . But when I was actually in involved, actively involved in zoo keeping and animal care, outside all the time. All sorts of weather, which I mean, I so love. (VB) This might be a tough one, but what is your favorite species? So, I mean, right now it's African wild dogs, but I also, I grew up riding horses, so I still very much love horses, so it depends on the day. But those are definitely probably my top two. (VB) And you were 4-Her right? (CM)It wasn't physically a 4-Her but I had a lot of peeps and friends in 4-H. So I will go and you watch the 4H shows my county unfortunately didn't have a large 4H program. But the the horse barn I rode at, I had a lot of friends who had horses of their own or had friends that had horses that did 4-H. (VB) OK, And about how long do the wild dogs African wild dogs live? (CM) So they live very similar to like domestic dogs. So when they get up into kind of like over ten years since considered pretty old. They can they can will up to 15 years, but it's like ten to 12 years is more common. So it's very similar with your domestic dogs. (VB) And how long have research trips been in the past. And where to? (CM)So for for my research trips, I would go to each of zoo for around a week. So I did I would watch the packs for like a whole week there the whole day. And I visited each zoo we like three times over the course of the year so I can see the how the pack developed over time. So a couple of those zoos. One was Binder Park zoo. So that luckily wasn't to far of a drive. One was The Wilds, which I mentioned earlier, so I previously interned there. So I was familiar with that pack. and like, for one of the zoos was down in Florida. So a few different zoos. So lots of travelling, which was kind tough at the time, but I enjoy it. (VB) So is there more than one breed of African wild dog, like house dogs? (CM)So no, so there are some breeds... so this is actually an interesting thing in science. So breeds as we think of them are more so animals that have been like domesticated. So humans have bred them for certain traits. So there's been more of an artificial selection. With wild animals, they are what are called subspecies. So typically, so African painted dogs are a species, but there are certain populations of painted dogs that are kind of isolated from other populations. So they may make up what is a sub-species. Because they, they never interact with members of these other populations. It gets very messy very fast when you're trying to distinguish between subspecies and all sorts of things. That's a lot of research that people do is into that. (VB)'m going to tie my question to the next one, So the question we have is how much do the dog's weigh when they are full sized? But how much, I'm going to add, how much are the pups when they are born also? (CM)Yes. So adult dogs can be 50 to 70 pounds, 80 pounds with some of the larger ones. The pups, like domestic dog puppies, are very small when they're born. like one could fit in the palm of my hand. So a pound or two maybe. Depending on dirt ones. Some are born bigger than others, there's usually a runt to the litter. So it kinda depends, but they're very small. They are, they can't hear and they can't see when they're born. So they actually spend the first six weeks or so their life actually in a den that their mom will, might dig out of the ground or she might use like an old Aardvark den. So this keeps them safe and like together so that way they don't accidentally crawl and wander off. So this is super important as they They are developing into little playful puppies and until they can travel better with the pack. (VB) And this person would like to know if it ok, they would like to know how much money you make as a zoo keeper. So much of how much a typical Zookeeper might? (CM) Yes. So Zookeeping, you don't make a lot of money in it. Ever. Unfortunately. I wish but you don't go into it for the money. I mean, I know people most people make less than $50,000 a year. And a lot of it depends on the the zoo. Kind of where you live. So, you know, different things like that because unfortunately these animals are very expensive to take care of. And so zookeepers don't typically, get paid a lot. But it's, zoo-keeping is actually a really competitive field because, #1 it's really cool, but you have a lot of really passionate people who've really loves these animals. When they get into it. (VB) OK, Is covid affecting your research at all ? And can painted dogs catch covid? (CM)So in terms of my specific research, no, not really because I am done with doing my kind of in-person data collection. So I go into the zoos, I finished that last summer. But I have a lot of my fellow graduate students whose research was effected, being able to travel to different locations and stuff like that. So I kind of lucked out in that sense, but I know a lot of people who were affected. Painted dogs can theoretically catch Covid. I don't believe there has been any cases, but there have been some cases of actually big cats catching Covid. like tigers. So it is possible for non-human, non-ape animals to catch it. (VB) we'll ask when more come in. But do the dogs have markings that show their identity like for the mother and pop to recognize each other, or is that with their voice? (CM) So they will recognize each other a lot by scent, but they also have a lot of different types of calls. But they will also use markings to identify each other. Each painted dog has its own very unique markings like as you can see in the picture on the right here, all these dogs have different markings, which makes it a lot easier for me to tell them all apart. Because when you have when the pups grow up, they grow up really fast. So when they all get full-grown, you have ten plus dogs that look very similar. I wouldn't be able to tell who the parents were without some of these markings or even telling the parents apart from each other. Especially if they're kinda farther off in the distance. (VB) And do zoo keepers typically named their animals or do they tag them? How do they how do they tell them apart to know wild dog A is sick versus wild dog B? (CM)Yeah, So zookeepers get really good at telling their animals apart. Especially ones like painted dogs that are all very uniquely marked. And, you know, just like maybe some of you have are involved with the care of a group of animals that some a lot them may look very similar, but you learn to recognize them by maybe this one is furrier than the other or, you know, this one is tends to hang back a bit. Me. Working with them day in and day out. You will learn to recognize them and as you get to know them. But for some other animal species in zoos that maybe are a little harder to tell part. So you have like a whole bunch of penguins together, for example, that they all basically look the same. They will, they will tag them with like little clips on their, their wings. So that way they can tell them apart from, especially from a far distance, if some of them are not as sure around people. That can be very useful. (VB) OK, and do the dogs live in zoos and climate control places. (CM) So yeah, so sorry, I lost my train of thought for a second. So yes, so the dogs are actually pretty tolerant to a pretty wide range of temperatures but, so a lot of them they have access to, you know, their main exhibit area and then whatever outdoor area they have behind-the-scenes. But especially in areas like up here where it's winter and it gets cold and they're not built for that. They do have indoor climate controlled areas. So that way they stay, are able to stay warm for the winter and be able to stay inside. They're not built for the negative Fahrenheit temperatures we can get up here in Michigan sometimes. So, but the keepers will also provide straw another bedding for them to keep them warm. Or if it gets, they're an area where it gets super hot out, they will always have an area that they can go to kinda get relief from whatever extreme temperature it is. and the way things are provided like temperature control, depend on the species of animal. So like, for snow leopards, they provide like a cooling thing in the summer. And zoos will, usually only let their animals outside and a certain temperature range. So it needs to be, for example, needs to be above 40 degrees, for example, for these animals to go out, to have access to outside for the day. So it just kinda depends on the individual species and animals need and what they're used to. (VB) Ok, and do they put trackers on the dogs? (CM) So in a captive setting, no, since they're in a more contained area, but in a lot of wild studies, yes. So they will they will use the tracking collar like is more typical. So they that's been vital in being able to tell where they move. Because, Painted dogs have range over very large swaths of land. So and it can be hard to follow them sometimes. So that has been vital in getting important information about how they use their habitat where they prefer to hang out, kind of what areas of land should be protected and where these guys live. Thinks like that. Veronica, you're muted. (VB) sorry, That's all the questions we have up wait, just one more popped up for you. About how many wild dogs are there in the world? (CM)So there's about 5 to 6 thousand still left in the wild. So I would estimate around 6500. Of course, a lot that can, those numbers can be hard to keep track of. In the wild. With these animals, unfortunately, because there's a lot of resources needed to track and count these animals over all the different areas where they live. (VB) Do they get diseases similar to our domestic dogs? (CM)Yes, may actually, they got a lot of diseases and similar to domestic dogs. And that's actually a major reason for some of their decline in their population in certain areas. So for example, they can get canine distemper. So a lot of dogs are typically vaccinated for that But dogs, painted dogs over in their native habitat over in Africa can actually catch things like distemper, rabies, etc. and other diseases from domestic dogs, that live in the same area. So there might be some like feral dogs that are running around and they just happened crossed paths and they can unfortunately transmit diseases to each other. So actually some of the conservation efforts for these dogs involve actually vaccinating these dogs against those diseases. So that way, if they were to encounter them, they would be protected against them. (VB) (unclear words)Wild dogs such as the ones on the screen? (CM) Now, I wouldn't be in the same enclosure as them. They are, they are very good to each other, but they are still wild animals. They are still dangerous. So keepers typically don't, they don't go in the same enclosure has them. Because they, if they perceive you as a threat, they will attack you. So play with them in a sense, but there is some sort of barrier in between. So like through this glass here, some of them, especially the pups when they were born, we're very curious. So they would interact through the glass with me. But I will try to go in and cuddle one because that would be that would be dangerous. (VB)So I know some animals in zoos have toys they keep the zookeepers will keep in with animals to keep their minds going in, to keep them mentally healthy. Um, so what kind of toys do the African dogs have to keep their minds healthy and keep them healthy? (CM) So actually a lot of toys that are given to dogs. So like the rubber Kong toys that maybe people give their dogs, peanut butter in I know I give mine. They absolutely love those. So there'll also, they'll give them stuff like peanut butter yogurt inside of those because you know they like getting treats as well too. We give them like rope toys, different sorts of scents. So in some places, the if they have like certain farm animals and they have like something like a sheep, were they sheared the wool, they will put the wool that they sheared inside of the exhibits so that way its a new smell for them to interact with and they're really excited about it. The pups especially absolutely love the sticks and destroying whatever trees were still alive in the exhibit at the time. As puppies are want to do, they are very, they can be very destructive. (VB) Ok, How strong is their bite force in pounds? (CM)I don't I don't know the specific number in pounds. I don't have that fact off the top my head by to give you a kind of comparison. So you'd have like hyena, which is one of the strongest bite forces in the world. Like, they can crack through bones. Dogs, painted dogs can't, don't have as much as hyenas do. So they still have very strong jaws. But I would say it's, it's similar to a lot of the are kind of like say, like a German Shepherds. Domestic breeds. (VB) And what do the dogs eat? Typically, whats in their diet. (CM) So they are very much carnivores. So in the wild, the heavily eat impala and wildebeest, warthogs. If they have a larger pack that allows them to take down larger types of prey such as zebra. And some might try taking down water buffalo, but that usually is not very effective. So impala are by and large their their main thing that they eat. (VB) Ok. And how has that replicated in a zoo setting? (cm) So it depends on the zoo but they are typically fed a leaner meat. So it might be deer that they're fed. Horse meat is also common. So some are, might also be fed, you know, poultry, beef is not as common because it's not a very lean meat. So it, it kind of depends, but they usually try and do some sort of a mix. But typically focusing on those leaner meats. (VB) and can wild dogs be tamed? (CM) No, I'm just going to probably do a flat no that. a lot of times they can they can probably be comfortable with people theoretically, but they have such specific social needs that they won't do well if they aren't in a pack. And if they are a pack then they are very much in that wild mindset. (VB) Okay. Are they awake most of the time? Are they sleep a lot, nocturnal, daytime? (CM) So these so these guys are most active in the morning and in the evening. So they tend to avoid being nocturnal because that's a lot of times when like lions and hyenas are active, which they directly compete with. And then during the day, its hot. So they'll be sleeping a lot of the time outside of that morning and evening range. (VB) Okay, And at what age is considered an adult with these dogs? (CM) So typically, adult is once they reach two to three years of age, is considered an adult. They can have pups as young as like shortly after they turn two. But it's not as common until they get a little bit older. (VB) And did they ever feed the painted dogs rabbit meat? (CM) So they definitely definitely will depend on the facility. But yeah, I know several examples where they do feed them rabbit meat. That is also another common type of meat. (VB)That is the last of our questions tonight. Unless somebody else has one? I have one for you, Caitlin. We've got a lot of middle school and high school age callers that are that are here with us today. And I would think that most of them would love to have your job. What advice do you have for them? Who might be considering a work in your, in your line of work? What what would you have them do? (CM) So for some of, you know, get involved with any kind of animal you can. As I said, I started my background in horses and I'm still very heavily involved in that. That began my interest in, in animal behavior, watching them, watching my own dogs. So you'll get involved in that. Learning, say if you're involved with horses learning about horse training and their type of behavior that you see in a herd. Looking at their different personalities. If you have some kind of a zoo facility near you, going there. Going to, you know, Keeper Talks because to Keepers love to talk about their animals. If you, if you're able to, you know, getting involved and maybe a zoo camp or some kind of volunteer program. Maybe in your local parks. Maybe your DNR has something or your zoo. So you might have to look for those opportunities a bit, but you don't get just getting getting involved in animals, you know, some way somehow. And if you, a lot of times for zoo keeping you do need a college undergraduate degree, like a bachelor's degree. So keeping that in mind, there are actually some teaching zoos around North America that you can earn your associate's degree, which is two years. while, basically working as a Zookeeper. So you would that would be like a zoo science degree. So there's several different ways of doing it. And there's so many different aspects to get involved in. And like said, and I'm, I'm mostly interested in mammals, but there's a lot of cool research being done with birds, with reptiles, amphibians, insects. So maybe mammals aren't necessarily your thing. Then go look at what, what thing you're interested in. Because there's probably research being done. And if you see something about research being done, see if you can contact the researcher. You might find their email if you Google it. If they're at a university, for example, people love to talk about their research. They love to talk about their animals. So, you know, just try, Try and learn, go explore. (VB) What other species, have you studied? (CM)So in terms of ones, I'm more, more actively done research with. I've done research with some big cat species. I've done research with white-tailed deer and birds of prey. And I'm going to kind of use that to kind of segue into kind of me talking about my background because I hinted at a lot. But I figured kinda giving some of that contexts might give people an idea of kind of where I'm coming from. So in terms of how I got where I am, like I mentioned, i've been very interesting and animal behavior from a very early age. I always liked watching my own dogs. The dog on the left is my dog I have now Jane, she's amazing. Oliver also started from going to my local zoos.. I'm originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. So I spent a lot of time growing up in Cincinnati Zoo doing trips there, doing zoo camps. I was very fortunate to have a zoo near me. So including getting to see some of these cool red pandas, which very cute when they sleep. And then also like I said, I been involved in horses since I was nine or ten. So I actually begin taking riding lessons at nine and then got involved in horse care, volunteering at the stable I was riding at when I was when I was 13. So I got to see and get to know the same horses over 10-15 years. So I knew them very well, including this horse here, Winton, who was one of my favorites. He was a grouchy old school horse. But you can see he still love to kick up his heals sometimes. So I would literally go out watch the herd for hours. I that's how I also about started in photography was just taking my little point and shoot camera out , this was in the mid 2000's and just watching them for hours and just getting to interact with them was really cool. So that kind of started my interest in animal behavior in general. And I mean, I've always been an animal nut. So I knew when I after I graduated high school, I wanted to do something with it with animals. So off I went to Xavier University in Cincinnati to get my bachelor's degree. So my undergrad, I studied biology for that. And something that got me interested in zoo research was actually my senior research project, which I did at the Cincinnati Zoo. And involves looking at the behavior of some there big cat species, including their lions. So that kind of got me interested in zoo research in general and I knew I would like to get more involved with that. So I actually took a year off between when I graduated from Xavier and before starting at Michigan State. And during that time I was an intern at The Wilds, which I've mentioned a few times right here. It says Zoological facility in southeastern Ohio. You haven't been there. It's really cool. I would highly recommend if you ever get the chance to visit. So this land, the land that this is on is, has been previously used for coal mining. So one of the things that they do their they don't just keep animals there. They also do stuff to restore the native habitat and look at the biology of the wildlife that lives there. So my first internship there, I was a restoration of wildlife ecology intern. So we did stuff such as restoring the native prairie habitat that was there and monitoring a lot of the different species that were there. So I did a project looking at the white-tailed deer and how they use the different types of habitat. So a lot, the deer loved it there. There was lots of grass for them. But we also looked at other animals, such as birds of prey, such as hawks, looked at waterfowl. So ducks and geese also looked at amphibians like newts. Fish, looked at reptiles like snakes. So looking at all sorts of wildlife and seeing how they use the habitat and what kinds of and how they responded to some of the changes we would make to the habitat. So like restoring that native prairie land. Or we also restored like a, a wetland. So, and that's been used very heavily by a lot of different bird species, for example. So that taught me, I got a lot of research skills when I was in that internship. So learning how to analyze a lot of these different types of data, learning how to use a lot of different type of research equipment. So that was really important and I learned a lot while I was there. And then after that, I actually did another internship with their animal management. So this was essentially zoo keeping internship. So I learned a lot about how to take care of different types of carnivore and hoofed animals. So so some animals I did work with included painted dogs, cheetahs. The hoofed animals were giraffes , rhinos, zebras. So this giraffe here, his name is Tuffy. He loves food and he also loves scratches. I also got to watch a lot of different veterinary procedures and got to be involved with like care and the management animals. So that was a really valuable experience. So when I was looking at kind of my next step in terms of schooling, so going to graduate school, I knew I would like to be involved in the zoo research somehow. So that's how I ended up at Michigan State. I joined the Integrative Biology and "E.E.B.B." programs. So I had a so how it works, my program, we have a I have a research adviser who their area of research focuses on a particular topic. And my research adviser, his focus is on research in zoos. So that's what my project ended up being kind of in that area. So so I've been here for the last 3.5 years now. I'm doing research on that and as well as taking more classes and working as a teaching assistant. So kind of wearing a lot of different hats but getting to learn a lot. So that's kind of been my, my path where I am. So thank you. Thank you so much Caitlin! This is fascinating to hear the path that you've taken and all of the, the research that you've been doing too. And I know we're on the hour at this point, so I guess I'll just say thanks to everyone who has been participating today. And you actually gave a great kind of introduction for the last poll that I'll be launching here in just a sec. And you had asked, you know, sort of figure out what animals you like. And we want to keep asking at the end of each session, what groups of animals are? What group of animal would, what do you all like to learn about next? Because we we are going to be filling those 2021 slots. So please let us know in the poll and also invite once again, thank you, Caitlin, and we'll invite everyone to join us again next month on December eighth. That's going to be with another MSU researcher from a different department, fisheries and wildlife this time and so please join us then. And we'll be talking about invasive species with sea lamprey in particular. So we are going to talk a little bit more about fish. Last two, we've done some mammals and we greatly appreciate Caitlins time tonight. And once again, thanks for filling out the poll for those of you that were able to do that. We hope to see you next month. (Crickets)