Carolyn Copper's Story
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Carolyn Copper

Let’s Meet Carolyn!

I might be a bit of non-traditional student! I pursued wildlife rehabilitation and wildlife/nature photography as a second career. After completing my Ph.D. in psychology in the early 1990s, I had a fantastic and rewarding 25-year career with the federal government that brought me closer to important environmental issues. In simple terms, I’m an animal lover and am now their advocate as well.

How did you become interested in your field?

I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors and for as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated and passionate about animals and wildlife. Spending years studying and learning about environmental issues and the stress we place on our planet and wildlife only amplified my interest in wildlife rehabilitation and advocacy. I’ve had encounters with severely injured wildlife that were difficult to witness. Feeling helpless to intervene effectively, end their suffering, or get them the help they needed was intolerable to me. Learning about wildlife rehabilitation and rescue changed that helpless feeling.

Where do you live and work?

I currently own my own photography business, Copper Range LLC  and live in Washington, DC. My photography is nature and wildlife focused. At this time, I stay involved with wildlife through my photography and and with wildlife rehabilitators through donations of my photography and participation in fundraisers.

How did you benefit from your ABI experience?

So many ways! I could write pages on this. I learned so much from the course materials, instructors and from the other students in the classes, many who were actively working in their fields and had practical and helpful tips and experiences. The activities I completed during my field experience at a permitted wildlife rehabilitation center mirrored so many of the things I learned about in my coursework. That reinforced to me the quality of the instruction and curriculum at ABI.

How did you complete your field requirement?

I completed my 40-hour requirement at Back to the Wild in Castalia, Ohio. Back to the Wild is a permitted wildlife rehabilitation center that’s been in operation for almost 30 years. I had opportunities to see it all and do most of what the permanent staff did, within what state and federal law allows. I prepared food, cleaned cages (messy, but I was happy to do it), helped with administrative work, went out on rescues, participated in animal intake, observed animal euthanasia, and participated in a release. The release was truly a life highlight. During my week there, the center released a snowy owl that had been in it’s care. It was the first release of a snowy owl from the center in 15 years. The release was widely attended by the public. The center’s manager gave a terrific talk to the public that really emphasized the value that wildlife rehabilitators bring in educating the public on animal species, conservation and the work of wildlife rehabilitators. Environmental Education and Outreach is one of the courses in the ABI curriculum for the wildlife rehabilitation program!

Do you have any advice for potential students or current students?

I understand if you might be skeptical about on-line courses. I was too, but I was quickly convinced that ABI has talented, quality instructors and curriculum. Be prepared to do the work of finding a location to complete the field requirement if you’re not already working for a rehabber or know one that might have space for you. If someone doesn’t already know you, it may help to introduce yourself in person (visit the rehabber if you can). If possible, attend their annual fundraiser or a large wildlife rehabilitation conference like the Call of the Wild, which attracts rehabbers from different parts of the country. Wildlife rehabilitators are often really busy and have so much on their plate. Be patient, respectful, and kindly persistent if this is what you want.

Would you recommend ABI?

Yes, I recommend the Animal Behavior Institute. It’s a good way to get exposure to a field you may be interested in, test the waters a bit, or go all-in and get on the path to a new career you’re passionate about. In my experience, the coursework is challenging, relevant, and on-point. Instructors are fair and attentive to student success.

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