The banners were set. The streamers were hung. The presents were wrapped, and the cake was baked. Kristen Peagler and her colleagues at the Greenville Zoo were ready for the party to begin. All they needed were the guests to arrive. But this wasn’t a birthday party for one of the zookeepers. This was a party for the zoo’s orangutans. “The zookeepers made a huge cake with ingredients suitable for orangutan nutrition and created gifts containing treats, which were placed all around the enclosure for the orangutans to find and enjoy.”
Throwing a party for orangutans was just one of the experiences Kristen had during her time interning at the Greenville Zoo. “During my internship, I had handling time with many exotic animals, including a South American boa constrictor, American alligator, and kinkajou. I also acquired valuable skills from the zookeepers the zoo veterinarian,” she said.
As an undergraduate, Kristen played as a forward for the women’s soccer team. Her time away from the soccer field was spent primarily in PC’s science facilities, where she was mentored by two biology professors. “I had a great advisor in Dr. Nash and great research mentor in Dr. Wetzel. They were very accessible and provided invaluable support, especially when I applied for internships and for vet school.”
Their guidance led Kristen to broaden her knowledge and to enter the realm of research. “The professors definitely encourage you to take your thinking a step further. Dr. Wetzel encouraged me to further my research concerning the field of ecology and to submit an abstract to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research,” said Kristen. “The abstract was accepted, and I presented my project that had nothing to do with animals, which is where my passion lies, but everything to do with plants. This experience definitely broadened my horizons”
Scoring goals. Singing “Happy Birthday” to orangutans. Presenting scholarship at a national conference. Unconventional? Not at Presbyterian College.