2013 Year in Review: Kelli Waller, Diagnostic Intern

It’s time to look back on 2013! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2013 from the staff, students, and volunteers of the Wildlife Center.

Being able to work with such a variety of people and cultures both at work and at the student house has been one of my favorite experiences. I enjoy teaching others what I know and learning from them. My job is quite amazing. How many people get to say, “Oh today at work I held a Bald Eagle or I drew blood from a bear?” Many people don’t even get a chance to see these amazing animals. I get asked which animal is my favorite and I can’t answer that. Each one has its own interesting story and individual characteristics that make it just as great as the next critter.

My position at the Center is the diagnostic intern, and one of my responsibilities is cytology -- the study of cells. One case I have enjoyed was the Cedar Waxwing who presented with a mass in its head. We did an impression smear on the mass, which is when we touch a microscope slide to the mass itself. I stained the slide with a special stain called "Diff Quick" and examined it under the microscope. I noticed a particular group of organisms that appeared suspicious. Continuing with my examination of the slide, I found several more organisms which had the same characteristics as the other suspicious organism. I remember seeing something like this in school. Looking back at my old school notes, I felt more confident in identifying this organism. It was Cryptococcus! Cryptococcus is a type of yeast, and there are many different species of it. Many species live in the soil and don't harm humans. However, there are some species found in bird droppings that can affect humans. It is not a common thing to find, so I was super excited to have a sample and send it off, saying "yes, it was positive for Cryptococcus!" I love my job!

--Kelli W.

Keep checking the Wildlife Center's blog for more year-end posts this week!

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