An average day at work for Brad Hudson means watching his back for Siberian tigers, polar bears, wolves, and snow leopards, making sure the vicious predators don’t attack him. The senior biology major interns at the Anchorage Zoo as a zookeeper and tour guide.
An Alaskan native, he heard about Robert Morris from his aunt, Helena Vanhala, the department head of Robert Morris’ Media Arts program.
As he cares for each animal, he studies them, noting their habits and behaviors. Each morning he preps a specific animal for the day, cleans their cages, prepares their meals, and puts away their toys. One of his favorite parts of the day is tending to the baby seals, who have learned to obey the zookeepers.
“One of the seals knows behaviors, sort of like dog tricks,” Hudson says. “So I can get him to come up to me and do a kiss, stretch, roll over and stand up in front of visitors.”
When he’s not tending the exotic animals, Hudson gives walking discovery tours to visitors throughout the day.
“My most important role educating the public about the conservation of animals,” says Hudson. “I get to teach people about animals that are close to extinction and the interesting behaviors of all of them.”
Hudson’s team recently rescued three Kodiak brown bear cubs whose mother was shot and housed them until another zoo could take them. There is an orphaned moose calf that has become fond of Hudson, so he is now in charge of bottle-feeding it every morning.
Courses like invertebrate anatomy, zoology, and animal behavior have helped him prepare for his internship and working with animals. “My animal behavior class is really applicable because we’re learning how to breed and give enrichment to these animals. We don’t want to be hostile with them, so understanding how they think and react is important.”
His zoology course taught him the classifications and evolution of animals, which is especially useful when working to domesticate animals. He enjoys being able communicate clearly with his coworkers and understand the animals they are working with, especially the dangerous predators.
“You have to always watch their behavior. These are animals that could potentially kill you,” he says. “ And they’re smart, so we need to understand them.”
At RMU he worked on an extensive research project about bees where he and his partner focused on the potential threat that farmers faced due to the endangerment of bumblebees and honeybees. While giving tours of the bee exhibit, he takes what he learned from his project and educates kids about the importance of bees to our food supply.
When beginning college, he was unsure of whether he wanted to concentrate on wildlife or work in a hospital setting. The zookeeper credits Catherine Hanna, assistant professor of biology, for his passion for wildlife. He says she engaged him in his biology courses and pushed him to want to learn more about animal wildlife.
Upon returning to RMU, Hudson plans on enrolling in a surgery technical program to test the waters of a medical setting. For now though, he’ll stick with tigers and polar bears.