Close search

BW biology alumna turns internship into zookeeper and trainer position

Photo of Rachel PetroRachel Petro '17 has returned to her roots in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, working at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Petro, who majored in biology, is a marine mammal trainer and keeper.

From Internship to Full-Time Position

Hers is a tale of hard work turning an internship into a full-time position. She was an intern for not quite a full month before she was offered her current job. "This field is very small and extremely competitive so any experience is a big deal," said Petro.

She spent three months as the veterinary and wildlife intern at the Alaska SeaLife Center prior to her position in Pittsburgh. "My time at the [Alaska SeaLife Center] was a very valuable one. That was my first exposure to this field and built the foundation I take pride in and constantly build on," she said.

Photo of Rachel Petro Playing Peekaboo

Petro says that position really tested her lab skills, and there was never a dull moment. Now she is working with many species including polar bears, northern sea otters, a California sea lion and a northern elephant seal. She notes that the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is the only facility in the United States to house and care for elephant seals.

Animal Healthcare and Training

Her duties include every aspect of husbandry. She prepares the animals' diets every day and helps them partake in "their own health care and mental and physical stimulation." She says the animals are fed four to five times per day. The feeding sessions double as training sessions to allow Petro to reinforce the behaviors the animals are trained to do upon request.

Petro is also a certified scuba diver. She is able to help care for exhibits and ensure the animals have appropriate living spaces.

Zoos and Wildlife Care Offer Great Opportunities

This field has so many opportunities, according to Petro. "This field is very unpredictable and that is one thing I really love about it. It is physically and emotionally draining … [and] it is extremely rewarding to know you are contributing to the healthy and happy lifestyle of these amazing animals," said Petro.

Media Contact

More News

Sherwin-Williams launches BW career accelerator and learning community

BW students work Super Bowl LVIII for hands-on sport management experience

State approves new BW graduate degree in clinical mental health counseling