Not many students can say that their major contains field trips, identifying birds and catching baby alligators on a regular basis.
But Audrey Cohen, a zoology conservation biodiversity student, gets to spend her years at Auburn University doing these activities.
Convinced as a child that she would be a ballerina, Cohen’s mind was changed after a month long trip to South Africa in high school.
"I've always had a love for animals, but it was that trip that really opened my eyes," Cohen said. "We got to go on these amazing safaris. I would wake up early just to go on walks with our tour guide and see the nature and animals."
Although she loves nature, Cohen has other reasons for getting involved in Zoology.
"I just have this fear that my future kids aren't going to know what a Siberian tiger or a manatee is,” she said. “I'm from Florida, and I've seen manatees my entire life. The fact that they are endangered and could be gone one day is just a crazy thought."
Cohen’s favorite course in her major has been Vertebrate Biodiversity with Matthew Kearley. The course consisted of trips to Beaver Pond to study fish and turtles, as well as catch baby alligators.
"We canoed around, and you see these little red eyes and you just have to catch them,” she said. “It doesn't hurt, but once they bite down, it's so hard to get them to let go. You have to cover their nose in order for them to let you loose."
According to Cohen, the department is one of the more positive things in the major.
"Matthew Kearley is one of the nicest, most knowledgeable professors I've had. He really knows how to teach,” she said. “But everyone in the department is great and will help you get to where you want to go in life.”
As for the future, Cohen has an idea of what she wants to do for a career.
"I'd rather stay away from zoos,” she said. “Some are great and focus on rehabilitation or conservation efforts, but some zoos just don't have the money. It’s sad that these beautiful creatures are mistreated and kept in small cages. I want to work in a private organization, or with the government, and help save them."
Graduation is the first step toward reaching this goal.
“I’m slowly getting close to graduating,” she said. “It’s scary, but exciting! We’ll see what happens.”
Until then, Cohen will spend time with her favorite animal, her dog, Luke.