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Cailyn Toomey

ABI Success Story


Zoo & Aquarium Science

Let’s meet Cailyn! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I have been working with animals since 2011 and I have a  bachelor's degree in biology with a minor in wildlife biology. I was a veterinary assistant for 6 years working with companion animals, and I have experience volunteering in wildlife rehabilitation. This year I changed careers to become an animal diet specialist at a highly regarded zoo.

How did you benefit from your experience at ABI?

It has been my lifelong dream to work in a zoo setting. I had the relevant education and I had animal experience, but I felt I was not sticking out as a candidate with only my bachelor's degree. I felt I needed further education, and I benefited from taking these courses because they gave me renewed confidence in my skill set, new ideas for how to make myself stand out as a candidate, and the opportunity to continue my education in way that was tailored toward pursuing my specific goals, without having to go back to complete a master's degree.

What was your favorite course?

My favorite course was ABI 311 Animal Nutrition, Health, and Disease. I learned a lot about how to practically implement nutrition to promote long-term animal wellbeing and prevent diseases associated with improper nutrition. The instructor provided thoughtful homework tailored to match the weekly lesson, and provided really good feedback and interesting articles related to the weekly topics. I saved all my notes and they are an excellent resource!

How did you complete your field experience?

I completed my field experience volunteering at a zoo, where I participated in population surveys, behavioral watches, visibility studies, and assisting guests to the zoo with questions related to the zoo and the animals that live there.

What have you been doing since you graduated from ABI?

Since graduating ABI I started a job working at a zoo as a full-time animal diet specialist. I am also participating in an amphibian population survey for my third year and a camera trapping survey for the first year.

Would you recommend ABI to others?

I would! I think especially if you are working with animals but feel like you would benefit from more specialized education. It was really nice to be able to work towards a certification but still have a flexible schedule to balance work and other full-time responsibilities.

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