OSU Rower Gets A Taste of the Wild

April 23, 2005

Corvallis, Ore. - By Melody StockwellOSU Sports Information

When she was told she had to have an internship in order to graduate, senior co-captain rower Michelle Bacon knew she wanted to go to a developing country.

That desire sent her to Namibia and the Cheetah Conservation Fund last summer.

'I was looking for an internship somewhere not in North America, basically, and the IE3 program here on campus had this one in Namibia,' Bacon said. 'I looked at a lot of different ones in Africa, but this one appealed to me because it was through the school, and it was an obviously set-up organization.'

Bacon has always been interested in animals. Growing up she had many pets and her grandfather was a veterinarian. Her interest in animals led her to become a wildlife science major.

In Namibia, while most of her work was devoted to the cheetahs, she also got some experience with leopards and hyenas when a researcher was there studying. And her learning didn't stop with the animals. She also learned how a non-governmental organization works and how a conservation organization works in a developing country, and she was exposed to the issues in Namibia and in southern African countries.

The transition to life in Namibia was relatively easy for Bacon since most of her co-workers spoke English, and the official language in that country is English. But coming back to the United States was another story.

'The harder transition was coming back here,' Bacon said. 'It wasn't extremely desolate [in Namibia], but coming back here was much more of a culture shock after seeing the way people lived and having a bigger world view.'

And of course, living in a different country with wild animals for 11 weeks gave her stories to tell when she came back.

'The story that everyone seems to enjoy is that someone that I worked with got her pinkie finger bitten off by a cheetah,' Bacon said. 'We were trying to take care of this cheetah that was sick, but we didn't want to put it under anesthesia because it would make it more sick, so we were trying to give her needles while she was still awake and something backfired and it took off the finger of one of the women that works there.'

Graduating in June, Bacon hopes to get back to Africa and do more conservation or development work.

'This experience made me certain that I wanted to do conservation work in developing countries,' Bacon said. 'As soon as I got back, I got on the internet and looked up organizations that I could volunteer for, intern for that would get me back over to Africa.'

'I loved it so much; I just feel like I have to go back.'

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