July 13, 2023
Life At Witt

Zoe Chirumbolo McKee ’24

Rising senior biology major explores passion for birds and animals through competitive internship with Cincinnati Zoo

Passionate about animals since her youth, biology major and lacrosse player Zoe Chirumbolo McKee, class of 2024 from Cincinnati, Ohio, is gaining significant experience as an intern with the Cincinnati Zoo’s Wings of Wonder Encounters this summer. Working specifically with exotic birds, McKee helps with daily animal husbandry, creating/replacing enrichment, and diet preparation. Chirumbolo McKee earned a first-year research award (FYRA) and studied with Margaret Goodman, professor of biology. She now takes some time to share a bit more about her current work.

Wittenberg: Tell us about your summer internship with the Cincinnati Zoo.

Chirumbolo McKee: I am LOVING my internship. Through my internship, I get to work with a lot of really cool exotic birds. I have loved, not only birds, but all animals since I was little and knew I wanted to work in this field for the rest of my life. I am working with some of the coolest birds with my favorites being the African Pygmy Falcon, the Milky Eagle Owl, the Green Wing Macaw, the African Penguin, and the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill. I am learning so much.

We have bird experiences almost every day, and I help get everything set up and ready to go for those experiences. The experiences take up most of the day, but whenever there is free time, I have the opportunity to work and create relationships with some of the birds. On a day with more free time, I can take some birds (and dumbo rats) out on encounters around the zoo. Some days, I get to watch the head keepers’ training sessions, where I learn a lot more about animal behavior and training. 

Wittenberg: Why did you choose to attend Wittenberg University?

Chirumbolo McKee: I chose Witt because I felt it was the right fit for my love of science and animals. I also believed that Wittenberg’s biology faculty would help me grow in both my strengths and weaknesses. I was also excited to do FYRA research with Dr. Margaret Goodman. We looked at two local populations of honeybees from separate colonies. We isolated the mitochondrial COX1 gene and compared the level of variation between the colonies. We then planned to look at any potential similarities or differences in this gene compared to Africanized honeybees. However, COVID cut things short, and we were unable to continue further research. 

Wittenberg: Would you like to continue to work at a zoo after graduation?

Chirumbolo McKee: This is my first internship at the Cincinnati Zoo, and it has been truly amazing, I plan to pursue further opportunities at the zoo, as well as some local raptor rehabilitation programs. Interning at the Cincinnati Zoo has taught me a lot about teamwork and communication. I feel like my experiences at Witt had prepared me for this and helped put me ahead of others in landing this position. My plans after this internship are to still work with animals and stay involved with the Cincinnati Zoo community.

Cindy Holbrook
Cindy Holbrook
Senior Communications Assistant

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

Back to top