Gary Wilson: EATM The College for Animal Trainers

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Episode - 17  ​June 2020

Host: Barbara Heidenreich

Guest: ​​Gary Wilson

​Have you ever asked the question………”How can I become a professional animal trainer?”  My special guest Gary Wilson is here to help. Not only is Gary a professor at the Exotic Animal Training and Management (EATM) Program at Moorpark College, he is a graduate of the program and has been deeply involved in its growth and development over the years. For those of you already in the field, you are going to enjoy getting to know the history on how the training industry has evolved, especially in southern California. I definitely discovered some stories relevant to my own journey! Hear what it's like to be an EATM student, what animals they get to train, learn about some famous alumni, get the details on a certain viral video featuring a jugular blood draw from a hyena and find out how you might have a chance to join this outstanding program. I also answer a follow up question on showing food when training a recall behavior and whether to use intermittent schedules of reinforcement. ​Scroll down for the hyena video and link to a live-stream mentioned in the podcast.


​Links to Resources:

​Learn more about the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College in California

Learn more about America's Teaching Zoo


Enjoy these Videos Clip Mentioned in the Podcast:

​Here is the video of Savuti the hyena and the jugular blood draw behavior

​In this video you see the process of training a pigeon to learn a color discrimination in a park in New York City. He could also acquire food easily from other locations. Learn more about training discriminations in this live-stream replay on Facebook. Members get access to a searchable library of all the live-streams with jumplinks to easily skip to their favorite parts.  ​


Guest Bio:

​Gary Wilson is the senior professor in the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College, Moorpark, California. He was hired at the college in 1985 to take over as program coordinator from retiring EATM founder William Brisby. He did the job of overseeing the program, keeping the curriculum up-to-date, and managing the college's Exotic Animal Compound. Starting in 1990, Gary managed the operation of America's Teaching Zoo, the college’s on-campus animal facility, which he helped design and build. In 2001, Gary returned to teaching full-time. Over his career, Gary has taught many of the courses offered by the EATM program but his favorites are Animal Diversity, Animal Behavior, and Animal Training. As the animal training professor, he has had the opportunity to work with a wide range of animals including monkeys, camels, big cats, large reptiles, and birds of prey. Gary graduated from the EATM program in 1977 and then worked as a contractor to the US Navy, training bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, and belugas. In 1980, he returned to school to earn a B.A. in environmental and evolutionary biology (1982) and an M.A. in biological sciences (1985), both at UC Santa Barbara. He worked briefly as a relief keeper at the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens. From 1998 to 2000, Gary helped create the Animal Behavior Management Alliance, a membership organization comprised of animal care professionals and other individuals dedicated to advancing animal behavior management in order to enhance the husbandry and welfare of animals. After its formation, he served on its board of directors as the chief financial officer. Since 2003, he has been a member of the Director’s Advisory Committee on Humane Care and Treatment of Wild Animals for the California Depart of Fish and Wildlife. Gary contributed two chapters to Zookeeping: An Introduction to the Science and Technology, published in 2013. In 2015, he was given the Hal Markowitz Wellness Award from the San Francisco Zoological Society and named the Distinguished Faculty Chair at Moorpark College for the 2015-2016 academic year. In 2020, Gary began co-department chair of the EATM program along with Brenda Woodhouse.


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