Undergraduate Student Spotlight


Claire Chinery came to GSU as a transfer student in the Fall of 2015. She is currently in her senior year as a biology major and intends to become a zoo keeper after graduating in May 2019. She hopes to work primarily with amphibians and reptiles.

Because GSU is in the heart of Atlanta and offers flexible class schedules, Claire was able to complete various internships in and around the city during the school year, including internships with Blue Heron Nature Preserve and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Her early internships involved helping with nonprofit administrative work, running salamander surveys in urban Atlanta, and taking care of endangered Central American frogs and African tortoises. She has also volunteered at the Amphibian Foundation, where she raised endangered Flatwood Salamanders.

To gain more experiences with reptiles, Claire applied for and was accepted to a herpetology internship with Zoo Atlanta. This was where Claire found what she wanted to do for her career. It really was the experience of a lifetime, and she spent the summer taking care of some of the world’s most unique, beautiful and rare animals. One of the highlights of her time at the zoo was being a part of a group to move a giant 10-foot Reticulated Python off exhibit – definitely a team effort for such a big snake!

In July 2018, she was invited to stay on for part of the fall semester as a seasonal keeper. Because GSU was so close to the zoo, she could continue to take a full class load as well. The classes she was taking prepared her for the work at the zoo as she was able to learn more about the animals she was caring for. One of her interests is reptile and amphibian disease treatment, and she was able to use the principles she learned in her classes to better understand the current treatment for respiratory infections in tortoises.

After finishing at Zoo Atlanta, Claire applied for and landed a coveted internship with the Saint Louis Zoo. She was thrilled since Saint Louis has one of the largest herptile collections in the United States! At Saint Louis, the highlight turned out to be the caring mentoring community of keepers who helped her learn more about what it means to be a dedicated, well-educated zookeeper.

Heading into her senior year, Claire is more excited than ever to start her career. She looks forward to being able to work with animals on a daily basis and hopes to promote excellent animal care by learning more about the animals themselves and facilitating connections between zookeepers, veterinarians, researchers and zoo guests.

Previous Undergraduate Spotlights