Krebs puts biology degree to work at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo

Krebs puts biology degree to work at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo

Mandi Frerking Krebs '01 had no idea what she wanted to do with her biology degree when she graduated from Doane’s School of Arts and Sciences.

Most biology students were encouraged to go into pharmaceutical sales or attend graduate school, but Krebs knew that wasn’t right for her.

After studying abroad in Costa Rica and working in a field assistant program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with pronghorns, she realized she wanted to work around animals. Krebs applied for a summer position with the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo while still at Doane after being mailed a newspaper ad from her mother.

“I never realized that you could go to a zoo and have a career,” Krebs said. “That there were these kinds of opportunities.”

She began as a horticulturist at the Wildlife Safari Park, but became a full-time horticulturist in the Lied Jungle after graduation.

Krebs finally got her chance to work with animals when the Desert Dome was built about a year later, becoming an animal keeper. She moved up, though, and has been a supervisor for the last six years and was promoted to interactive programs manager last year.

In this position, Krebs manages all programs that incorporate education animals, those who go to schools, classes or animal shows.

“It is the perfect way to incorporate my love of animals with educating the public,” Krebs said. “So now part of my role is to train the animals, but to train the people that handle the animals.”

Fossa_Mini.jpgIn addition to her role at the zoo, Krebs is the fossa species survival plan (FSSP) coordinator for North America, a position she began in 2006.  Fossas, cat-like carnivores native to Madagascar, are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and the FSSP manages the genetic diversity of the captive fossa population.

She makes recommendations on which fossas should breed in order to maintain diversity. That also means that Krebs has to know the complete genetic lineage of every fossa in North America.

Before attending Doane, Krebs went to Norris High School in Firth, where she said almost everyone in her class went to Nebraska Wesleyan University.

“I didn’t want to go to Wesleyan, so me and my friend went to Doane,” she said. “Doane felt like home when I walked on campus.”

Beyond the lifelong friends she made, Krebs said one of the things she liked about Doane and its biology department were the attitudes of the professors, which helped her get to where she is today.

“(The professors) are so caring and focused on you as an individual,” she said. “That was important because I did have a different direction that I was going and it was unclear. They didn’t see me as a biology student but as an individual. They recognized me as a person.”

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