Meet undergraduate student Emma Lawlor

Emma Lawlor graduate May 9 with a BS degree in Animal Science. Here is information from the report she did on her year-long internship at Southwick’s Zoo.

Emma Lawlor and a porcupine at the Southwick Zoo.
Emma Lawlor and a porcupine at Southwick’s Zoo.

Q: Where did you intern, and when?

My internship is at Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon, Massachusetts, from August 2014 to July 2015. I intern twice a week but the time commitment is negotiable, particularly during the school year.

Q: Was it a paid internship? What did you do there?

This was not a paid internship but college credit can be earned. I spent my first eight months as an Earth Discovery Center intern. The Earth department is a great place to start because it exposes you to a large variety of species. The animals I care for on a daily basis have  included various arthropods, reptiles, birds and mammals (tarantulas, scorpions, lizards, crocodilians, turtles, tortoises, snakes, parrots, owls, marmosets, sloths, potbellied pigs and kangaroos just to name a few). Every day I started out by cleaning enclosures and feeding each animal. Some days I went with a keeper on “zoo mobiles” or in school presentations. On weekends we would have in-zoo shows educating guests on animal adaptations and conservation issues. I got to prep diets, create behavioral enrichment, and train show animals. I also assisted with several unique projects such as bringing in the kangaroos for the winter, hand rearing a coati and kangaroo, building a painting devise for our porcupine and assisting with various medical procedures.

I designed enrichments for some of the animals: A Christmas tree with edible decorations for the porcupine, a painting apparatus for the porcupine and jack o’lantern enrichment for the bush baby

I will now be moving into the primate and hoof stock departments for the next few months. I have shadowed in both departments throughout my time as an Earth intern and am excited for the opportunity to gain more hands on experience with a variety of new species.

Lawlor made the porcupine its own Christmas tree with edible decorations.
Lawlor made the porcupine its own Christmas tree with edible decorations.

Q: When did you apply for this internship?

I applied the summer before my senior year, but any current college student or recent graduate is eligible to apply.

Q: How long did the internship last?

A typical internship at Southwick’s lasts 3-5 months, but I loved it so much I stayed longer!

Q: How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about this internship online at

Q: Anything else you’d like to add about your experience?

This internship is unique because it allows more hands-on experience than many other zoological internships. I have watched a giraffe give birth, bottle fed many neonatal animals, assisted with medical procedures and even spearheaded some of my own training and enrichment projects during my time at Southwick’s. I have gotten to know all of the keepers and management in my department and others and have learned a lot from each of them. Each day is different at the zoo, and in my nine months and counting I have learned something new every day!

Q: What is your area of interest as an animal science major?   

I am most interested in exotic animals and behavioral husbandry.

Q: So, what are your plans when you graduate? 

I am planning on attending the Exotic Animal Training and Management program at Moorpark College and working toward a career in the zoo industry.

Q: If someone has questions, can they contact you regarding your internship experience?

Of course! My email address is and I would be more than happy to answer any and all questions!