Amber Haritos says that life as an undergraduate student at Iowa State University has definitely not been a breeze. Amber is double majoring in Public Service and Administration in Agriculture (PSA) (now known as Agriculture & Society) and Animal Ecology with an option in Pre-Veterinary and Wildlife Care. “The journey has been rough yet inspiring,” Amber says. “It took a good three years of college for me to find my true passion!” Although Amber always knew that she wanted to do something that supports improving the lives of animals, she never knew exactly what. Then, she realized that she is passionate about studying animal behavior because how an animal behaves and interacts with its environment can help us to answer many other questions.
Amber has been busy getting lots of research related experience while at ISU. This spring (2015), Amber is working as a research assistant where she is involved in determining how the feeding schedules of pigs can affect their behavior. In addition, through the McNair Program, Amber has been working on researching how a variety of common bee viruses can affect the natural behaviors of honey bees by conducting behavioral analyses and scoring the behaviors of test subjects. In summer 2014, Amber had worked on a project determining how lameness can affect the behavior of sows in a stall-like setting. One of the most important opportunities to come out of this work has been the opportunity for Amber to present her research findings to four different conferences.
Amber has also had the opportunity to gain work experience outside of the research lab. During the summer of 2013, Amber was a summer animal care intern with the Avian and Terrestrial Reptile Team at the Blank Park Zoo. There, Amber learned how to care for many types of avian species and some terrestrial reptiles. Amber says the best part of her experience was being able to clicker train tortoises. “It’s amazing how smart they are and their ability to learn makes health exams and exercise so much easier for both the animal and the trainer. I am a huge supporter of this training,” Amber said. Additionally, Amber worked as a Kennel Staff Member at Boone Veterinary Hospital where she learned to provide care to companion animals.
In spring 2014, Amber was chosen for the Natural History of Costa Rica study abroad trip with Dr. Dinsmore and Dr. Pease. Amber learned about the massive amount of biodiversity that Costa Rica has to offer a wide range of exotic animal species, plants, fungi , forestry and wetlands. Amber says the best part of her experience was having the opportunity to choose a species and become an expert on that species. Amber chose to study the Scarlet Red Macaw and the Great Green Macaw and was able to see both flying freely during her visit.
Amber will be graduating in May 2015. Amber hopes to use her PSA major in her plans to work for a non-profit organization, where she hopes to gain enough skills to eventually build a non-profit organization of her own dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation and animal advocacy. Additionally, with her major in Animal Ecology with the option in Wildlife Care, Amber’s goal is to gain enough experience to work for an educational institution. Finally, with Amber’s Pre-Veterinary option, she would like to be well-rounded and knowledgeable enough about animal care and nutrition. She is also considering obtaining a Veterinary Technician Associates Degree after completion of her undergraduate degrees.