Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Jessica Beckstrom

Jess Beckstrom spent the summer of 2010 taking classes at the British School of Falconry, in Manchester, Vt., and working at the Ecotarium, in Worcester, Mass. One of her jobs at the Ecotarium was training the museum’s red-shouldered hawk, Archie.

Adorable is in the eye of the beholder. The Ecotarium is a science and nature museum with a collection of native wildlife and a variety of exotic animals.… On a typical day I would prepare food for and clean the exhibits of the animals, and in the afternoon I would train Archie, the red-shouldered hawk, and exercise the large lizards and some of the mammals. I would also help with educational programs.… I enjoyed working with Archie, and I loved hanging out with my friend Kyle, an adorable ball python!

Teaching Archie. I started working with Archie after my first visit to the British School of Falconry, and Dianne (the wildlife veterinarian technician) was there to help me at first.… It was definitely a learning process for both Archie and me, and when his talons were flying at me from every direction it was pretty intimidating. The most difficult part was remaining calm and patient with him at all times.

All about trust. The goal for Archie’s training was to get him used to people so that he could step up onto the scale for his weekly weighing. He was a smart little guy, so the goal quickly changed to having him fly to the glove from about 10 feet away! Any relationship you have with an animal is built on trust, but I found this to be especially true when working with birds of prey. They don’t seek affection like a dog or a cat, so building a relationship of trust is extremely important.

A future with animals. My goal is to become a veterinary neurologist … but in addition, I would love to be able to start my own raptor rehabilitation center where injured birds of prey can be treated and released or, if need be, remain in captivity in a place that resembles their natural habitat as closely as possible. Many species of birds of prey are losing habitat rapidly, and I feel that if people are able to have close encounters with these spectacular animals they will more willing to protect them.

Favorite course? I can’t decide! I’d say that “Comparative Animal Behavior” and “Vertebrate Evolution and Anatomy” were equally awesome! Biology professors Kathleen Morgan and John Kricher are my two favorites.

Watch Archie on YouTube.

–Cara Suriyamongkol ’11