Joanie Hilton ’12 is spending her summer interning at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. So far, the Pittsburgh native’s work has mostly focused on the aquarium’s family of 30 penguins, made up of Macaroni, Gentoo and King Penguins. In the position, Hilton works with the penguin keeper Kathryn Wozniak to prepare the penguins’ food and feed the flightless birds. She also narrates the dive show at the aquarium’s largest tank and helps train the penguins through playful activities, such as running through sprinklers.
“Our goal is to create a friendly and fun environment for these little guys!” she says.
When she’s not with the penguins, she works with Eric Keller, a saltwater specialist, on exhibit and tank maintenance and water quality testing. In addition on Fridays, she hosts a show a feeding show at the Stingray Touch Tank.
The biology major hopes to become a marine animal trainer.
“During my interview I told Kathryn Wozniak my dream of being an animal trainer and that I was looking for a hands-on experience with them,” Hilton says. “Kathryn said that would be exactly what I would get working with the penguins.”
Through this experience, Hilton has a new found love for penguins and hopes to work with them later in her career.
“I am so attached to all the animals; it is going to be tough leaving them at the end of the summer. I have not only learned so much about different types of marine animals but also how to take care of them and their habitat. It is a big role that aquarists play in making an aquarium a fun place to visit for everyone,” she says.
When Hilton isn’t busy at her internship, she works at Shady Side Academy’s Discovery Day Camp as the tennis director. On campus, she is a member of the William Smith tennis team, Rising Stars, Core20 and the Student-Athlete Advisory Council. She also visits the Geneva Living Center regularly and is a teaching assistant for introductory biology labs.
The Pittsburgh Zoo first opened in 1898, and its aquatic section dates back to 1967. The PPG Aquarium was the result of a major overhaul in 2000, in which the zoo received a grant to build the present facilities.