Hello, Museum of Life and Science Family! Sherry already did a Spotlight post on me, but I wanted to introduce myself to everyone. I’m Dr. Julie Grimes, the Behavior Management Consultant for the Museum of Life and Science. I have a company (well, it’s really just me and my cell phone, but the IRS keeps insisting it’s really a company) called Animalworks, LLC that provides Behavior Management services to institutions with animals in captivity. I’ve worked with zoos, museums, science centers, police K9 units, livestock farmers, private owners. I’ve been doing this for about 10 years and I’ve been working with the museum for 3. I finished by PhD in 2005 , and I also teach full-time at Davidson County Community College.
Folks ask me all the time, “What do you do?” Well, in a nutshell, I help people figure out how to train animals in a way that maximizes everyone’s welfare – animal and human. My overall training goal is to get animals to voluntarily participate in their own care and management. I only work with institutions that support a philosophy of voluntary cooperation with their animals. One of my mantra’s (and if you are around me in a training context for very long, you will undoubtedly hear me say this many times) is, “We don’t make an animal do anything, we make them want to do.” Imagine you are a zookeeper, and the vet at your institution comes to you and says, “We need to give your black bear it’s annual vaccines.” If you have an animal that will voluntarily participate in that process – by coming into its holding area voluntarily, by presenting its hip against the mesh voluntarily, by tolerating the injection voluntarily – then everyone’s day is made better. The bear is less stressed than if we had to restrain it (either physically or chemically), the keepers are less stressed, and the vet is less stressed. Everyone wins! Those are the kind of projects I work on for all the species at the museum.
I visit the museum about once each month and consult with keepers about their ongoing training projects. Sometimes I’ll observe a training session, or we’ll talk about any problems the keepers are having in their training. Sometimes we’ll set training goals for the upcoming year. Often we celebrate training successes by doing the Happy Training Dance (don’t ask, you just have to see it). I love working with this staff – every one of them is dedicated, passionate and engaged in the training process.
I’m excited to be a new contributor to the blog! Be sure to let me know if you have any questions, or if there are any training topics you want me to cover!