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Hi Everyone, my name is Harriet Barker and I am a research student here at Newquay Zoo. I am currently on a placement year from the University of Salford studying Wildlife Conservation with Zoo Biology.

My main role here at Newquay Zoo is to carry out research projects on nutrition. In particular, I am studying the effects of carotenoids on the tadpoles of phantasmal dart frogs (Epidobates tricolour).

 

Here’s a picture of a phantasmal tadpole and one of me carrying out some routine water quality tests. You may not know what carotenoids are - I know I didn’t when I started the project! They are pigments that are synthesised by plants and are essential to the health of all animals.

Recent studies have shown that dietary carotenoid can influence frog health, from colouration to the immune system. This project interested me because of how little research has been carried out on the effects of carotenoids on phantasmal dart frogs, so I hope that my research can help improve captive husbandry and welfare of these animals.

I am also helping to keep our animal diet database called ZIMS updated. This allows us to analyse the nutritional content of the diet for each animal, including intake of different carbohydrates, fat, protein, ash/minerals and vitamins. I also help analyse and assess animal diets on ZIMS, consult with keepers on new diets and any questions they may have, and support work experience students and other research projects within the zoo.

My day-to-day activities are very varied: one day I could be measuring my tadpoles using a specialist computer programme, analysing the results, and comparing it to previous data. And the next day I could be thinking of new games for kids club, writing a report and helping a masters student take pictures of frogs to monitor colouration change. The one thing I love about my placement is the varied activities my day-to-day work life entails, giving me valuable work experience.

The zoo benefits from my placement as I have the time to be able to carry out the research, with staff being so busy and with so many animals to care for keepers don’t have time to set up, monitor and analyse the data collected. All of which is both time consuming and challenging. I help the zoo to meet their strategic aim of ‘Ex situ conservation of threatened species’ by trying to understand the impact of different animal diets in captivity, contributing to improving their health and welfare.

Thank you for reading my day in the life of a research intern and I hope to see you all in the zoo soon!

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