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Student’s Bear of a Job Has Her Gladly Going Bananas

By Jason Jacks on March 11, 2011

Andi Kornak with one of her co-workers. Courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Mason graduate student Andi Kornak’s new job has her happily declaring, “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

The Michigan native was recently named curator of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s carnivores and large mammals exhibits, meaning she gets to work with some of the biggest species of the animal kingdom, including bears, elephants, and rhinos.

So what does a curator do? “I make sure we have a good collection,” she says.

Kornak says she does this by evaluating the needs of the zoo then finding animals that could be a good fit there. She also manages exhibits, helps create new programs, and finds breeding partners for animals currently at the zoo.

One of her upcoming assignments will be to manage the zoo’s new African Elephant Crossing exhibit, which will open this spring and feature several elephants, including one weighing 13,000 pounds.

“There is always a calculated risk,” she says of potential run-ins with animals under her care. “But you have to try to minimize the risk.”

Kornak, who previously worked at Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Michigan, got her undergraduate degree at Michigan State University. She is currently a distance learning student in Mason’s zoo and aquarium leadership master’s program, where she studies online and takes part in classes at an Association of Zoos and Aquariums facility in Wheeling, West Virginia.

“[Mason’s program has] been great because it has allowed me to go from one position to another without stopping my schooling,” she says of the graduate program.

Kornak says she knew as early as high school that she wanted to work with animals. When asked if she has a favorite animal, this zoo professional answered without hesitation, and from her heart: “my dog.”

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