Spending 6 weeks living at the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society was certainly a drastic change from my life in downtown Vancouver. Despite many challenges, it was an incredible experience, one which I will never forget. The people, animals, and location combined made the past 6 weeks memorable.

One of the best aspects of the internship was getting away from the city, and being surrounded by animals and natural landscapes. Being an animal lover in the city is difficult, since there are restrictions on pet ownership and no wildlife. At mountainaire, I was constantly exposed to animals, both domestic and wild. While I missed the luxuries of the city, it was wonderful to get away from the traffic, noise and pollution for 6 weeks.

The most challenging aspect of the experience was the busy schedule. Anyone expecting a standard 8 hour work day should not apply to do an internship at MARS. Many days I worked for 12 hours, with some days extending to 14 and even 16 hours. In the beginning, I was frustrated with the long hours and my lack of spare time. Ultimately I got used to the long hours and found that the amount of time contributed by the interns allowed us to learn more quickly and spend more time working with the animals. While it was not easy, the work load was manageable over a period of 6 weeks.

The work itself was interesting and I learned a lot. From feeding fawns to medicating bald eagles, there were many new skills that had to be learned. Besides the daily work at the centre, there were also many job shadowing opportunities with local veterinarians and biologists. I enjoyed learning to work with a diversity of animals, including songbirds, eagles, fawns, racoons, ducks and owls to name a few. I learned to medicate, restrain, and feed these animals as well. One of the memorable patients was a great blue heron which had been attacked by an eagle and had to be routinely tube fed since it would not eat. Ultimately our hard work paid off and the heron was successfully released. Another memorable release was a fawn which we managed to reunite with its mother. Releases were a great reward for a job well done, especially considering how many patients in rehabilitation do not survive.

Understandably, the number of daily tasks and feeding schedules seemed overwhelming at first. With the help of the friendly volunteers and staff, I soon adjusted to the busy schedule and learned how to perform all required tasks. I learned to be organised and efficient when dealing with stressful workloads. As an intern, I had the responsibility of ensuring that all animals were fed and taken care of. I took a great sense of pride in my work, knowing that the rehabilitation and well being of the animals was in my hands.

I would certainly recommend this internship to others, in particular students interested in animals or ecology who either want to gain experience in the field or who aren’t certain of their career paths. As a recent graduate, I gained insight into possible careers while gaining experience. I am going to miss the wonderful people here as well as the animals and the beautiful Comox Valley. For anyone willing to put in long hours and hard work, I can guarantee that it will be a rewarding experience.

Lisa Curle, Intern May – July 2010