Otterbein alumni are elephant zookeepers at Reid Park Zoo

Posted May 17, 2022

By Payton Kaufman ’24

Three graduates of Otterbein’s Zoo and Conservation Science program are working with each other — and elephants — at Reid Park Zoo in Tuscon, Arizona, thanks to the program’s relationship with the zoo.

While the zoo itself is on the smaller side, it is home to many large animals. That’s where Mara Eisenbarth ’17, Lauren Silla ’17, and Matthew Vieth ’16 come in. The Otterbein alumni work to care for the African elephant herd at Reid Park Zoo.

“Because of the smaller size of the zoo, it makes Reid Park such a big part of the community,” Eisenbarth said. “It also makes it a really intimate setting within the staff and we have a good relationship with each other.”

Both Vieth and Eisenbarth interned at Reid Park Zoo before joining full-time. In fact, thanks to the Zoo and Conservation Science program’s robust internship opportunities, between them, they had internship experience at the Columbus Zoo, Dallas Zoo and even a zoo in Perth, Australia.

“I did a lot of internships that were developed through Otterbein, all over the country,” Silla said. “After getting that hands-on experience, it sealed the deal that zookeeping was what I wanted to do.”

The field of zoology is competitive, and Vieth attributes his post-graduate achievements to the internships he did.

“To get a job right after graduation, especially working with elephants which are even more competitive, was really unheard of,” Vieth said. “The internships I did were definitely the key to my success.”

Outside of internships, Zoo and Conservation Science students had connections with Columbus-based groups, too.

“We took classes at the Columbus Zoo and their zookeepers spoke in our classes,” Vieth said. “We also worked the Ohio Wildlife hotline and went to the Ohio Wildlife Center to help with the rehabilitation of animals.”

“There was an expectation in every class at Otterbein that we would do something hands-on,” Eisenbarth said. “I went on many different local trips that related to zoo and conservation, and we were expected to communicate and work with those professionals.”

Thanks to these hands-on experiences, these three alumni found their dream jobs working with the elephants of Reid Park Zoo.

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Mara Eisenbarth ’17
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Matthew Vieth ’16
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Mara Eisenbarth ’17