Volunteer Spotlight: From Research to Roaring Nights

L.A. Zoo Behavioral Research Volunteer Natalie Martinez at Roaring Nights 2015

L.A. Zoo Behavioral Research Volunteer Natalie Martinez at Roaring Nights 2015

I am a behavioral research volunteer at the Los Angeles Zoo, which means I spend most of my time observing animals’ behavior, including their independent behaviors and social interactions. Aside from the occasional question I get and redirect to a helpful docent or student volunteer, I am there to collect data for research purposes. This month, I was able to try something new and volunteer at the Zoo’s last music event of the summer.

Double-wattled cassowary PHOTO CREDIT: Tad Motoyama

Double-wattled cassowary
PHOTO CREDIT: Tad Motoyama

Before getting into the details, I’d like to share a little bit of my background. I have volunteered in a variety of fields, such as foster youth advocacy and academic clubs. As much as I’ve enjoyed encouraging teens to pursue a college education and helping college students to network with science professionals for internship opportunities, I really wanted to work with animals.

When a friend pointed me in the direction of the Los Angeles Zoo, I was excited to volunteer in animal behavior research. The program required a completion of a 10-week animal behavior course through UCLA Extension, and I’ve since participated in the studies of jaguars, double-wattled cassowary, chuckwallas, the Cape rock lizard, sarus crane, California kingsnake, and the Zoo’s American alligator, Reggie. I had originally intended to study big cats and mammals, but it wasn’t long until I became curious to study other, lesser-known animals. It has been quite an enjoyable experience.

This month, I decided to volunteer for an event—the summer music series Roaring Nights. Instead of observing animals, I assisted at a social event for humans. Interacting with people was something outside of my usual Zoo experience, but something I wanted to try. The event was ’80s themed and dressing up was encouraged.

L.A. Zoo Behavioral Research Volunteer Natalie Martinez Goes '80s

L.A. Zoo Behavioral Research Volunteer Natalie Martinez Goes ’80s

When it comes to accessorizing, you don’t have to tell me twice! I got into the full spirit of the era and I even practiced my “Valley girl” voice. That is how excited I was for the night!

I didn’t know what to expect. I was assigned crowd control at the gorilla exhibit and elephant circle, and I had to monitor lines at the food trucks. The night went smoothly. While the crowd was lively, I didn’t have to “control” much; everyone was mature and seemed to be having a lot of fun. Even I had fun as a volunteer, assisting guests. Outfits were awesome and the ’80s music and live band were great! The Michael Jackson tribute, which I just had to see, was incredible.

I enjoyed socializing with the public because it was nice to do something a little different—interacting with visitors and answering the usual “where is” questions as well as questions about what I do as a volunteer. My L.A. Zoo Volunteer shirt made it obvious what I was doing there.

I’m looking forward to next year’s summer series—to volunteering as well as enjoying the event with friends. I wonder what theme it’ll be. Regardless, I’ll be ready!