- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 27, 2007

Erika Bauer likes to be where the wild things are. Last month, the 31-year-old animal behaviorist joined the Smithsonian’s National Zoo as a curatorial resident.

“This was the opportunity that I was waiting for, and I am so happy to get this training experience,” Miss Bauer said.

As the National Zoo’s first curatorial resident dealing specifically in animal care, Miss Bauer will spend the next two years conducting animal research and learning how a zoo is run.

“We’re giving Erika some real experience with the animal collections, and she will be focused on the day-to-day workings of a curator,” said Don Moore, the zoo’s associate director for animal care.

Mr. Moore said he was confident in Miss Bauer’s abilities and looked forward to working with her at the zoo.

“She’s already done this before, and she understands that her work with animal behavior can make their lives better,” he said.

Miss Bauer began working with animals in high school. She volunteered at an animal shelter in her hometown of Pittsburgh.

“In college I took a chimpanzee research course with a great professor, and I got hooked,” Miss Bauer said. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1997 from John Carroll University in Cleveland.

During her residency, Miss Bauer will learn how to keep the National Zoo running, balance its budget, design exhibits and organize transportation for animals.

“Right now I spend a lot of my time shadowing keepers and looking at enrichment strategies to see it they are affecting the animals’ social behavior,” Miss Bauer said.

“I think one of my greatest challenges here is time management,” she said. “Everyone on staff works overtime, and we all want to be more efficient.”

Many zoo staffers work 80 hours a week, Mr. Moore said.

“That’s the nature of the business,” Mr. Moore said. “Our life revolves around the needs of the animals in our care, and that can be pretty disruptive to your personal life.”

Miss Bauer said she is ready for the challenge.

“I have a serious interest in pursuing a career in zoos, and this is a great experience to learn how everyone works together,” Miss Bauer said.

She acknowledged that the contacts she makes are a good incentive. Two of the National Zoo’s former curatorial residents are working at the Philadelphia Zoo and Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Fla.

Miss Bauer earned a master’s degree in 2002 and a doctorate in biopsychology this year from the University of Michigan.

Her research has been published in Animal Behavior, the scientific journal of the Association for the Study of Animal Behavior and the Animal Behavior Society.

Most recently, she was a graduate fellow at the National Academies in the District, where she learned about science education at zoological parks.

Miss Bauer lives in Silver Spring.

Bryce Baschuk

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