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Member Voices: Inspiring the Zoologists of the Future

Animal Science lecturer Eleanor Rose demonstrates how educators can use Species360’s ZIMS software to inspire the incoming generation of zoologists and teach them about the vital importance of proper record keeping in animal conservation.

Guest Author: Eleanor Rose, Animal Science Lecturer and Course Manager at the University Centre Reaseheath, United Kingdom.

In 2012, I was teaching 20 Level 5 Zoo Management students how to enter animal records onto the Animal Records Keeping System (ARKS) and feeling like I was teaching them the history of computing. While I remembered DOS-based programs from school, the students had difficulty dealing with the blocky grey windows and occasionally temperamental data-saves.

Eleanor Rose uses LearnZIMS software to train her students on proper record keeping. Meticulous and accurate records are a vital piece of conservation work.

So when I had the opportunity to try out Species360’s LearnZIMS (Zoological Information Management System) software at a record keeper’s meeting with the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), it was a revelation. I could see the huge benefits to the students. Not only would they be trained in the software that zoos are increasingly using for animal records, but they could complete a much more engaging assignment as part of the record keeping module.

University Centre Reaseheath has been using LearnZIMS to train the zookeepers of the future since 2014. As part of their assessment, students create an animal collection plan and then add individual and group animal records to ZIMS. They subsequently create a series of events on a daily report sheet, which are also entered onto ZIMS. Many students enthusiastically research species, spending hours deciding on the perfect enclosure names for their enclosure tree and agonizing over which of their animals will give birth or need medical treatment. Deciding on the name of their zoo can be an equally tricky task!

LearnZIMS animal collection names from Rose’s 2018-19 class.

Student engagement with the assessment has been very positive over the years, with many citing it as their favourite assignment. They can access LearnZIMS from any computer, and have the opportunity to explore and experiment without worrying about corrupting genuine animal records. I find the ability to monitor data entry and undo student actions where needed to be very helpful from a teaching perspective.

Not every student enjoys the precision and attention to detail needed for a good record keeper, but even those students gain a deeper appreciation of the value of having good records throughout the assignment. Those that do take a liking to ZIMS look forward to using the live version as animal keepers, and even start applying for roles specifically focused on record keeping.

“…I have only just started to scratch the surface of these possibilities. The capacity that ZIMS has as both a teaching tool and data resource is enormous…” – Eleanor Rose

One interesting aspect of running the same assessment for several years is looking at changes in the choices students make for the animals in their collection plans. While Komodo dragons and mountain chicken frogs remain favourite representatives of reptiles and amphibians, mammals and birds tend to change with the years. Favourite birds have changed from scarlet macaws to Humboldt penguins or Californian condors. As for mammals; tigers are always popular, but Asiatic elephants, red pandas and snow leopards have also been favourites.

The animals used in all of Rose’s students’ collection plans from 2018-19.

As the former record keeper for Reaseheath Zoo, I have also been able to use ZIMS as part of student data-mining dissertations. There are countless ways that undergraduate students can use ZIMS to answer questions on collection planning and conservation, and I have only just started to scratch the surface of these possibilities. The capacity that ZIMS has as both a teaching tool and data resource is enormous, and I am looking forward to exploring and using the new functions that Species360 is adding every year.

Author Eleanor “Ellie” Rose teaches Zoo Management at the University Centre Reaseheath in Nantwich, England. We are grateful to Ellie for her invaluable conservation work and her continuous devotion to training the next generation of zookeepers and animal caretakers.

If you would like to contribute an article on Animal Care and Welfare, Animal Husbandry, Veterinary, Studbooks, and/or Conservation topics for the Species360 blog, please contact us at Mary.Ellen@Species360.org.

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