Tiffany Bogan nervously paced the floor of an animal enclosure. A caiman, a member of the alligator family, was inside. She carefully walked to a corner and waited for her instructor’s commands. The animal backed away.
Nervous and excited, Tiffany looked up and smiled at a camera nearby.
Another student placed a towel over the caiman’s eyes. As the reptile writhed its body in protest, she took a step back. Once the caiman became still, Tiffany, who is only 5-foot-4, was instructed to pin the comparably larger animal.
She sighed in frustration.
“I don’t have much weight,” she said.
“Just put all you’ve got into it,” her instructor answered.
Tiffany, along with another student, was able to pin the animal and lift it during the exercise. The experience was more than a chance to feed her adrenaline, although the biology major admitted she enjoyed the excitement.
Preparing for Vet School
Tiffany was a senior last spring when she took part in a seminar hosted by CCSB Reptile Rescue in Kernersville, N.C. She spent a weekend learning about reptiles and handling cobras, rattlesnakes, monitors and caimans.
As land continues to be developed across the Carolinas, there is “an increasing need for relocation of these wild animals,” she said. “In the seminar, we were taught how to safely handle these dangerous animals effectively, to get them contained, relocated and released.”
Tiffany, who minored in chemistry and environmental studies, plans to attend veterinary school. Now, she is gaining experience working at an animal hospital in Summerville, S.C.
“If I decide to continue my work in zoological research, I’ll also need to have proper experience handling these wild and potentially dangerous animals,” she said. “In the field of zoological studies, animals would possibly need to be safely relocated to various areas according to the extent of the study.”
Discovering Her Passion
Tiffany has an innate love of science and wildlife. She grew up on the outskirts of Woodruff, S.C., in a small house surrounded by woods and streams. As a kid, she was almost always outside wandering the property in curiosity. She says she’d often catch an animal or insect and bring it back to her house to show her parents.
One of her earliest memories with reptiles was around age 7 when she found a small salamander while out with her grandmother. It was enough to make her grandmother squirm, but it only piqued Tiffany’s fascination with all of the “little critters” that were around.
When she was 15, she rescued a litter of opossums found outside and inside her house. That is when she discovered rehabbing wildlife could be a career. She learned more from local places like Paws Animal Wildlife Sanctuary, Inc. in Laurens, S.C., the location she safely dropped off the animals.
During her time at PC, her adviser, biology professor Dr. James Wetzel, took note of her interest in animals. Wetzel created a directed study class for her. It involved learning and studying the anatomy of various animals, including a dog, a bobcat, a rabbit, a beaver and a few snakes.
Opportunities at PC
Tiffany also expanded her research skills at PC. South Carolina IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (SC INBRE) awarded Tiffany with a grant to conduct her honors research on Molly fish and their embryonic development. Wetzel and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) helped her set up a colony of Mollies in Lassiter Hall.
Tiffany presented her research at the SC INBRE Science Symposium, at the University of South Carolina at the PC Summer Fellows Symposium, and during Honors Day in the spring.
She says it’s her coursework and her professors’ mentorship that prepared her for these hands-on opportunities. The seminar with CCSB Reptile Rescue, in many ways, mirrored learning during lecture classes at PC and then applying those skills in a lab setting.
Along with the seminar, she took six credit hours worth of internships, including those at Clinton Animal Hospital and Cornerstone Animal Hospital in Irmo.
That’s all between her classwork, Greek Life, as well as memberships in the Pre Vet Club, American Chemical Society and Beta Beta Beta Honors Society.
“I have a passion for helping those that can’t speak up for themselves,” she said. “The animals I love to help the most are the ones that many people take for granted or would harm if they came across them.
“Animals have important roles in this world. People are always turning a blind eye to their effects on animal lives or actively taking advantage of these animals directly. I am a voice for these beautiful animals God made, and I am thankful for PC for being my stage and my podium.”
Major in Biology
Tiffany’s biology degree helped prepare her to follow her dream of working with animals. Check out the Biology Department to see what opportunities are available to you as a biology major at PC.