What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: A Zookeeper

I hear a lot of students are having a hard time deciding on a major. I hear a lot of grown ups talk about hating their jobs. So here it is: a series of interviews about What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. This is here to help people decide what occupation they want to occupy. Or, it’s here to help people resurrect their dreams of being a grandfather clockmaker or a NERF gun practice dummy.

First occupation in the spotlight: A Spook.

Second occupation in the spotlight: An Archeologist.

Third occupation: A Writer

Fourth occupation: A Scientist

Fifth occupation: A Stay-At-Home-Parent

Sixth occupation: Doctor Dorian from Deadliest Warrior

Today I’m spotlighting an occupation that has a lot of similarities with last Monday’s occupation (a parent.)
Just like a parent, as a zookeeper you can’t help but love your charges even though you’re continuously cleaning up their poo, wiping snotty noses, keeping their cages free from choking hazards, and keeping them from getting loose. And like a parent, you receive beautiful rewards in return for all the love you pour into them. What could be better than a koala hug or a horse’s rapt attention, or a kiss from a seal? Nothing, that’s what. The world would be a better place if more koala hugs went around.
I had the pleasure of an interview with the sweetest zookeeper in the world–
 Callene Rapp – animal keeper
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a jockey, but then I discovered that you have to diet to do that job, and I love food too much!  I’m still a big horse racing fan, and Kentucky Derby Day is my favorite holiday.
Horse jockeys–tall people need not apply
I am of the belief that horses and jellyfish are the best animals in the world. I could watch them for hours and would love oil paintings of them up on my walls if horse art wasn’t so cliche. What is YOUR favorite animal?
Horse art is cliche?  Crap!  I’m going to have to redecorate my entire living room now.  ;o)
Horses are probably my favorite animal, I’ve been hooked on them since I was about two.  But, I generally love all animals because they are all cool in their own unique way.  Some of the neatest animals I’ve worked with at the zoo are the Giant Indian Fruit bats, our zoo has a large group of them free flight in our Jungle exhibit, and it’s so cool to see something that large flying around overhead.  Their wing membranes are incredible.  We actually had some interesting times with the fruit bats recently, and I’m working on a post for my blog about it.
I also think spiders are cool.  Wouldn’t want one for a pet, but I just think they are neat.   The whole web thing is so cool, you know?  I should probably stop or I’ll remember 47 other animals that are my favorite!
What is the smartest animal?
The one that has the ability to make the zookeeper look dumb!  No, seriously.  We joke about how smart we keepers think we are, but invariably an animal will figure out a way to get out of it’s enclosure, trick you into thinking it hasn’t been fed, or dismantle something just as the curator walks by.  The elephants are notorious for playing mind games with their keepers, and don’t even think about trying to get something back from a primate if it’s managed to snag it from you!
Goodnight Gorilla — Fiction or … nonfiction?
Elephants have the reputation for being the smartest land mammals,  and with their long lived memories and complex social structure I’m sure they are right up there.  I do remember once catching a reference on a tv show that pigs were actually smarter than elephants ( I was with an elephant keeper at the time, and I was working with pigs–you can imagine that was interesting!) but I’ve never been able to confirm that.
What animal is so dumb that all the other zoo animals make fun of it?
The truth is, each animal is smart enough to do what it needs to do to survive in it’s own world.   Intelligence is relative and very, very subjective.  I hesitate to call any animal dumb because that’s the one that will make me look stupid tomorrow, lol! I’ll defer that question on the grounds that I don’t want to get embarrassed at work!
What animal is the scariest–you would NOT want to meet it in a dark alley.
Well, the first animals that came to mind would be a toss up between the zoo’s 14 foot King Cobra, or a chimp.  But I think definitely the chimp would be the most dangerous of the two.  They are super strong, super agressive and capable of doing a great deal of bodily harm.  That or animal curator…those folks are truly scary!
What do you love about your job?
The animals, definitely.  If you are an animal lover, it’s being in pig heaven every day when you go to work. Animals don’t care if you are wearing makeup, having pms, or if you are wearing fashionable clothes.  They just relate to you as you are, and if you bring a good attitude, they will meet you more than halfway.
I also like the fact that my work uniform is khaki, so I never have to worry about color coordinating.  And it hides the invariable daily stains.  I like the fact I don’t sit at a desk all day and that I can move around a lot.  It is a physical enough job that I don’t have to diet, which appeals to my food loving self!
What don’t you love about your job?
It isn’t a high paying job for the most part.  You had better be able to take some of your perks in emotional well being!   Depending on what animals you work with, you may have to be out in all sorts of weather.  The Amphibian and Reptile keepers for example work indoors most of the day, but hoofstock keepers such as myself work outside all the time.  This year, we had the coldest winter and the hottest summer, and you have to do the same things to take care of the animals in good weather and in bad.  Also, you will often have to work holidays, but again if you love what you do, every day can be a holiday!
Generally speaking, what are some qualities one should possess as a zookeeper?
Patience, determination, and self confidence.  You will toil very very had in relative obscurity for years with little recognition, constant criticism, and very little hope of financial reward.  Wait, did I just describe being a writer?
If I wanted to become a zookeeper when I grew up, what are some things I could do in Jr High/High School that could prepare me for the job?
Take science and biology courses.  If you have an opportunity to work with a veterinarian, or at any other animal facility, do it.  Cleaning stalls in a stable is good OTJ training.   If  you can develop good pitchfork technique early on it will always serve you well.  Get used to poop, it will be a major part of your life!  If you are lucky enough to have a zoo in your community, check out their volunteer program.   And also, keep an open mind!  Most people start out thinking they want to work with elephants, or big cats, but there are a lot of other animals out there that are just as cool and they need dedicated keepers too!
So cool! Sounds like a great occupation to me! Where can I sign up for the koala hug and playing fetch with the otters?
If you’re interested to hear more from Callene–go check out her blog, follow her on twitter, and she’s also on Facebook!
Tune in next time for: What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: Fashion Photographer
Have any questions for Callene?
What animal would YOU want to take care of?

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: Dr Dorian from Deadliest Warrior

I hear a lot of students are having a hard time deciding on a major. I hear a lot of grown ups talk about hating their jobs. So here it is: a series of interviews about What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. This is here to help people decide what occupation they want to occupy. Or, it’s here to help people resurrect their dreams of being a marsh bug collector or a Las Vegas private investigator.

First occupation in the spotlight: A Spook.

Second occupation in the spotlight: An Archeologist.

Third occupation: A Writer

Fourth occupation: A Scientist

Fifth occupation: A Stay-At-Home-Parent

Dr. Armand Dorian is one of those guys that make you think. Period. He’s super intelligent and thoughtful, so much so, that after I interviewed him I thought, “He’d make a really good hero in my book.” He’s passionate about life–which is good because he’s in the business of saving it.

His resume is longer than my foot (I have really big feet) and he has excelled at everything he’s turned his hand at. Sports, philosophy, doctoring, consulting, TV show hosting, entrepreneurial business, he’s even invented a new water . . . you name it he’s done it. That’s why I’m officially proclaiming him a Renaissance man, and henceforth dub him Sir Doctor Armand Dorian the Renaissance Man (feel free to put that title on your card, Dr. Dorian).

(painting by Cyd Wicker)

Renaissance Man aka: Polymath, a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. Wearing tights is not required.

Dr Armand Dorian:

But don’t just take my word for it. I had the great honor of a phone interview with Dr. Dorian.

Knights and Ladies, I give you my interview with Dr Dorian!

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a sports hero when I was young, I played them all. Then in college at UCLA, I was a philosophy major. I just wanted to sit under trees and think. But that doesn’t pay too well.

I got into genetics–human genome sequencing. I started working in a lab, sequencing genes. That was a buzz. Then three things happened that led me to my current career in medicine.

1.) I met a child with Ataxia-telangiectasia, one of the diseases we were trying to clone in the lab. I felt powerless. And I felt what I was doing in the lab–although helpful work–was just too distant.

2.) I was a life guard, and one day I saved a kid from drowning.

3.) I was leaving a party with some friends when I saw someone on the side of the road, bleeding. I told my friends to stop, I jumped out and ran to help. There was a guy–stabbed in the chest. Blood everywhere. I did all I could before the paramedics showed up. That kid ended up being a guy I had known previously, he’d gotten into drugs and some other bad stuff.

It was then I knew I wanted to be in the profession of saving lives.

But doctoring is not all I want to be. With the way we are today, we CAN do so many things. Take cell phones, you can do so much with them. Although it can steal some of your time, you can also multi task easier. You’re able to be so many different things now, when before you couldn’t.

Do you ever get tired of your life being just like the Dr’s in ER, Grey’s Anatomy, and SCRUBS? How accurate are those shows?

I am the consultant for those shows, so I feel like they are putting my life on TV.

(he’s also the medical consultant for Hawthorne, Southland, Days of our Lives, & Diagnoses X)

It’s entertainment and there’s a goal—using medicine to get a point across. But of course the characters and story come first, so sometimes they have to make compromises with the medical authenticity.

ER, without a doubt, is very accurate. There are two full-time writers who were physicians, two doctors rotating on set, and one producer is a physician.

I’ve had lots of fights with directors about masks. They’ll shoot the actor without a mask and I’ll tell them, “there’s no way they wouldn’t have a mask on,” but they leave the mask off so you can see the actor’s faces.

(Grey’s Anatomy–the eyes have it)

SCRUBS is good about the emotions behind the profession. They can be somewhat silly in regards to some of the medical stuff that gets through but they do a great job about showing the emotions of what a doctor goes through.

(eez a very funee show) 

Generally speaking, what kind of personality traits does a doctor need to possess?

Medicine is a weird place right now—it’s changing every year. In my parents generation being a doctor meant being wealthy, respected, a community leader.

But now doctors are a service provider. There’s a lot more business and bureaucracy that goes into it, which is unfortunate.

Without a doubt, the most important trait is to care. If it’s not in you to do it for free, then it’ll get overwhelming. Just think what you have to do to be a doctor: a minimum of 8 years of higher education, you graduate with loads of debt, you work an insane amount of hours, have a minimal amount of personal life, there’s a lot of stress. But if you care about your patients, all that doesn’t matter.

What do you love about your job?

I walk into a person’s life and in 5 minutes I’m effecting them, their family members, and doing my best to make it better. That privilege is the coolest thing. When you save someone’s life—there can’t be anything better than that.

What don’t you love about your job?

It’s now being regulated by people who have no idea about medicine—both by the government and administrators. When the bottom line interrupts the doctor/patient relationship–I hate that.

If you could change something about the American healthcare system, what would it be?

A very simplistic answer would be: let the doctor and consumer have a relationship, no third party.

It’s gonna happen someday and I’ll tell you how. Because of technology. Technology will help us be connected with information and doctors. And then you won’t need to go in to the doctor, you can simply make a call, or look it up online, and then there won’t need to be a third party.

Can you share an experience that is profound to you in regards to being a doctor?

There’s so many, you carry them as scars and you don’t bring them up. Profound experiences happen every day when you’re an ER doctor.

The most heart wrenching is really really sick kids. Kid’s don’t have much of a reserve—they crash really fast. Time is short. It’s important for you make a good decision. The following video is of a kid that we were able to save. We did the right things quickly. He made a come back.

What do you like to do for fun and relax?

I like to be with my family—I have two kids, a six year old and a four year old . . . and one on the way! Because I’m on shift work, it’s very cool because unless there’s a major disaster I get to spend a lot of time home on weekdays. So I get to spend time with my kids during normal days.

I’m a weekend warrior–I play basketball with a group of guys.

I’m also an entrepreneurial, I helped develop Cardio Water, and am trying to bring medical info into other retail products.


Now let’s talk about Deadliest Warrior:

In my interview with Geoff Desmoulin, he not only accuses you of eating McDonalds and doubts your Doctorhood, he also harps on your lab coat! What do you have to say about that?

(Dorian and Geoff–friends or enemies. Or . . . frenemies?)

As a biochemist who sits in the lab all day his head is clouded.

As for the McDonalds McCafe, yes I admit that I drink that. But it’s because we shoot so far from everything, there’s no Starbucks. So while everyone’s gorging on cheesecake for dessert, I drink a McDonalds coffee for dessert instead.

And you know–people are always surprised how tall I am when they see me in person. You know I’m 6″? Geoff just makes me seem small because he’s so ginormous.

Who was the warrior you were most impressed with?

The Spartan and his ability to be such a complete package—both individually and as a team. A little bit of armor, simple weapons, and the way they use that shield as a group and individually. It’s amazing how the Spartan is still the ultimate warrior after all these years.


Who were the warriors you would least likely want to meet in a dark alleyway?

Not a zombie or vampire for sure!

Also the Russian spetnez. They’re the read deal—formidable. They bring it every time. They have no safety in mind. Which makes everything scary.

What are some of your favorite weapons?

Ancient weapon- a claymore. It’s the size of a human. So intimidating. It looks goofy because it’s so big but it lopped off three heads in one stroke like in a cartoon.

“My medical advice would be to steer your head clear of claymores.”

I also like the weird designs. The martial arts weapons are cool, like the twin hooks.

Modern day weapons—Navy SEAL. I love the M-4. I wasn’t a big gun person before the show but now I love it.

“My medical opinion is that this man is dead. Dead as dead can be.”

So I’m hoping against hope that SPIKE TV will renew Deadliest Warrior for a 4th Season–so that there’ll be more amazing match ups and we’ll get to see more of the intelligent Dr Dorian.

But until then, anytime you hear a super accurate medical reference in Grey’s Anatomy you’d better tip your hat Dr Dorian’s way.

And go buy some Cardio Water and live longer thanks to Dr Dorian.

And hope that if you’re ever taken to the ER, you’ll get a doctor like him.

Thanks so much to Sir Dr Dorian for being here today!

Tune in next time to read: What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: A Zookeeper

Have any thoughts about what makes a good doctor?
What do you love about Deadliest Warrior? 

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: An Archeologist

I hear a lot of students are having a hard time deciding on a major. I hear a lot of grown ups talk about hating their jobs. So here it is: a series of interviews about What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. This is here to help people decide what occupation they want to occupy. Or, it’s here to help people resurrect their dreams of being a Komodo dragon trainer or volcano rock smelter.

First occupation in the spotlight: A Spook.

Second occupation in the spotlight: An Archeologist.

Remember when you used to dig holes in your backyard and expect to find the lost remains of your pioneer ancestors? Or possibly a saber tooth tiger skeleton? Or…more realistically…pirate treasure?!

Every kid likes to dig holes.

Some adults do, too.

We call them archeologists.

It is my great honor to introduce you to the awesome Arielle Danielson:

Oh geez that’s a bad picture of her. Let me try this one:

Hm. Still no good. How about:

Okay that’s decent. But my favorite has to be:

This is Arielle laughing and hugging her mom. If you know anything about her you’ll quickly find that she loves to laugh and loves her family. She also loves to rock climb and is pretty darn good at it. She also likes to dig holes . . . but we’ll get to that in a minute. For now let’s focus on the fact that she’s my cousin.Yes, yes, it’s true. Arielle is my cousin. So if you notice any good lines in her interview below . . . it’s most likely she got them from me.

Without further ado, I give you THE ARCHEOLOGIST:

Is your life constant motorcycle chases, treasure hunts, booby traps, indignant natives, collapsing temples, poisoned dates, and angry Nazis? In other words, is Indiana Jones FOR REAL?

Sadly, no. Our friend, Indy, tended to do things more on the illegal side, and we try to keep operations legal and not offend the natives.

Also, the type of archaeological work I do is different. I work in the CRM (Cultural Resource Management) field, which means that instead of going to temples and excavating, I do the initial survey of land parcels and try to discover archaeological sites. Here’s where the adventure comes in. The majority of the land parcels that we get to survey are undeveloped, so I get to blaze my own trail. This sometimes requires hacking my way through briars and dense vegetation, trudging through swamps, and crossing deep streams by way of fallen logs. All of this is done while looking for signs of prior human occupation and potential archaeological sites. So, in one sense, it has that same treasure hunt feel.

Do you have to wear this hat in order to become a real archeologist? If not, what IS an archeologist supposed to wear?

Well, a hat is very helpful, especially on sunny days, but usually a ball cap will do.  Since archaeologists are exposed to the elements all day, it always good to have some form of sun protection! The typical archaeological uniform consists of comfortable pants made out of durable fabric, a t-shirt, and hiking boots. Rain gear, gloves, and a long sleeve shirt are usually kept in your backpack in case you run into some unexpected weather.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A crocodile hunter, like Steve Irwin. Or, a journalist for National Geographic.

Why archeology? What are some reasons for digging? 


Let’s see, I actually just kind of happened into archaeology. I started out as a Mass Communications major, but realized journalism wasn’t for me after all. I had already taken a couple of anthropology* courses, and it seemed interesting enough to get a degree in, so I did. My junior year I went to field school where I spent a month deep in the jungles of northern Belize, excavating Mayan temples. From then on, I was hooked.

Since then, I have surveyed and excavated sites all over Texas, Louisiana, and Washington. Archaeology is very important because it gives us a more accurate representation of what happened in the past. It allows us to glimpse into cultures that were around before written language, as well as give a voice to the side of history which is generally over-looked: the side of the common people.  History typically focuses on those in power, while archaeology tries to uncover what was going on in the daily life of the entire community.

*Archaeology is one of several branches of Anthropology.

 So tell me what archeologists do.

diggin’ square holes, boss

Archaeologists excavate possible prehistoric (before written language) and historic (anything older than 50 years old) sites and determine their significance to the archaeological record. Basically, we dig a lot of holes and try to discover or confirm information about past cultures.

What is your dream dig?


One where I got to discover all the significant artifacts and didn’t have to do any of the paper work. Also, I would really like to go South America and excavate a cave dwelling or burial. That would be really cool.

What do you love about your job?

I love that I get to be outside all day every day.  I love that I get to travel. I love that I get to work with my hands and perform some good ol’ physical labor. And I love that when I dig up an artifact that I am probably the first person to touch it in over a century.

What don’t you love about your job?

Living out of hotels, rainy, cold days digging in the mud, and not being able to see my friends and family.

Say I want to be an archeologist when I grow up, what are some things I could do in jr high/high school that will prepare me for the job?

More and more communities across the country are instigating community archaeology projects. You can volunteer and get involved that way. Or, you can always volunteer at your local museum. There are also several field schools you can sign up for through your local university or online through another university. If none of those options are available to you, you can read books about archaeology and do all the yard-work for your mom (to get used to physical labor in the outdoors).

Thank you for being here, Arielle!

Stay tuned for the next installment of What I Want To Be When I Grow Up: Scientist

Would you like to be an archeologist?

Have any questions for the archeologist?


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