What to do during a pandemic if you have always been interested in animal welfare issues and want to further your formal education on this subject? Ottawa resident Liz Wheeler took advantage of online courses and registered for UWindsor’s Certificate in Anthrozoology.
“I have a very strong thirst for knowledge and always love to learn,” says Wheeler. “I’ve attended webinars as many times as I possibly can, but I really wanted to take some time for myself and dedicate it to getting a formal education.”
Wheeler has always been interested in animal welfare. Her first job was working at Ottawa Humane, her local humane society.
“The anthrozoology courses were a perfect fit,” says Wheeler. “Every day I’m learning something new, and I truly enjoy it so much. I’m going to be devastated after completing my capstone report and presentation.”
Wheeler’s capstone project, “Ottawa for the Animals,” is an advocacy initiative that encourages local community members to complete a 30-day challenge. She started planning the daily topics in December before the course had started and contacted the people she was interested in interviewing in early January. No one declined to be interviewed for the challenge.
The challenge included a daily podcast, approximately 10 minutes in length, on Instagram from January 31 to March 1. Each guest was related to the different daily topic Wheeler had chosen, and included a different challenge to the community, all related to animal welfare.
“The interview clips are meant to get the basic knowledge about a topic out,” says Wheeler. “There's also a resource document for people who are intrigued about that topic or want to take further action, and there are links to additional information that users can check out. The 30-Day Challenge will remain on Instagram indefinitely.”
Wheeler used online design software Canva to design posts, but drew all of the images of the animals by hand.
“I was going to talk about mink farming with one of the experts, so I thought ‘I’m going to draw a mink.’ That took time. I had to learn how to draw a mink,” she explains. “It’s been about two full months of doing stuff every single day, but I’m so happy I chose to do this capstone project.”
Wheeler’s project impressed professor Beth Daly.
“It is visually appealing, her interviews and podcast are so professional, and it truly embodies what I was hoping students would do for this course, which is to encapsulate or summarize their knowledge and understanding of everything they’ve learned so far in anthrozoology,” Dr. Daly says.
Wheeler is currently completing the capstone project report and preparing to present it to classmates in person on the UWindsor campus closer to the end of this semester.
To be able to have time to take the required courses to complete the certificate, Wheeler left one job and started working part-time for Faunalytics.org as its philanthropy officer, with responsibility for fundraising and stewardship. She credits her employer’s support of her studies and accommodating her class schedule as one reason for her success.