Biology major Samuel Neill ’13 is used to challenges: He’s a biology major, on the men’s swimming and diving team, a Wheaton Athletic Mentor, and a member of the Tri-Beta Biological Honors Society. But he really had his hands full in unexplored territory last summer working as a Balfour Scholar intern for the Musk Ox Development Corporation on a farm in Palmer, Alaska. Just how do you get a baby musk ox to drink milk from a bottle? Ask him; he knows.
Wild to mild: “The mission of the farm is to domesticate the musk ox and to promote qiviut (musk ox wool) production as a gentle and sustainable agricultural practice in the far north. Aside from the daily farm upkeep, animal husbandry and herding, every day was different. We had a saying at the Musk Ox Farm, ‘never a dull moment,’ and that was certainly true, whether it was changing the transmission on one of the trucks, sedating bulls for combing, or weaning calves, every day brought a new experience.”
Bull 101: “Before coming to Alaska, I had only seen pictures and some short videos of musk ox. However, within minutes at the farm I found myself being led into the bullpen to meet our thousand-pound dominant bull, Goliath. This first encounter gave me a deep respect for the power and majesty of these Ice Age survivors.” Got milk—and bruises: “The biggest challenge was getting our calves to take the bottle from us after they were weaned. The process took many hours, lots of spilled milk, and a couple good bruises. However, it was very rewarding once these calves started to warm up to me and take the bottle. I can now say I know fifteen calves that like me very much.” Field of dreams: “One thing that attracted me to this internship, and also to Wheaton, was the depth of the experience. In many ways this experience mimics the education I am receiving at Wheaton. Studying here, I know the benefits of a well-rounded experience. The Musk Ox Farm offered a similar opportunity by allowing me to be involved in all aspects of the farm’s operation. As an intern, I became an integral part of the farm. My work and my opinions were valued and appreciated. This internship also allowed me to do what I love. If I could be outside everday working with animals for the rest of my life I would be very happy. In that way, it fits into my future plans. And, my coursework has helped me gain pertinent knowledge to pursue this dream.”