Featured Volunteers: Will Schmidt and Annika Olsen

Recognizing Will Schmidt and Annika Olsen, PEEC Volunteers

By Christa Tyson, PEEC Volunteer Coordinator

This month we recognize a couple of our teen volunteers, Will Schmidt and Annika Olsen.  They have been volunteering in our critter care and critter education department for quite a while. Our salamanders, lizards, fish, spiders, frogs and snakes are in excellent hands. Both Will and Annika volunteer on a weekly basis and are key volunteers in the health and care of our animals. We hope you enjoy reading about these young, dedicated volunteers.

PEEC: Tell me about yourself; How long have you lived in Los Alamos?  Do you have any pets at home? 

W.S.: I’ve lived in Los Alamos for 12 years. I have a snake, 2 dogs, and fish.  

A.O.: I’ve lived in Los Alamos for four years now and before that my family lived in the Jemez, we still have our house up there but we only go up on weekends and holidays. As for pets, I have Mini Australian Shepherd named Buster and a cat named Ginger.

PEEC: How did you get involved with PEEC?

W.S.: I’ve always liked animals. When I was 12, I asked my Mom if I could work at PEEC to help take care of their animals. She got in touch with Jen Macke, and I’ve been working there ever since.

A.O.: I got involved with PEEC because I wanted a pet snake. My mom refused because I’ve never had a pet like that and didn’t know what to expect. One of my mom’s friends suggested volunteering at PEEC to learn how to take care of a snake. My mom agreed because she thought I would find the job so disgusting that I’d change my mind and get a different pet. The opposite happened!

PEEC: What do you do at PEEC?  What are your responsibilities?

W.S.: I feed and replace the water for each of  the animals in our exhibits.  I also monitor their health, making sure they are healthy and happy.

A.O.: As a critter volunteer I make sure the animals get plenty of food and I help keep their tanks clean. I also hold the animals and answer questions during PEEC’s weekly “nature up close” program.

PEEC: How long have you been volunteering with PEEC?

W.S.: I’ve been volunteering with PEEC for over four years.

A.O.: A little over a year!

PEEC: What are your favorite hobbies?

W.S.: I really enjoy volunteering in my community! I also enjoy sports such as fencing, kayaking and skiing.

A.O.: My hobbies include reading and listening to music. Both of which are most enjoyable if done outside.

PEEC: What do yo like the most about the Pajarito Plateau?

W.S.: I’ve always loved the soda dam near Jemez Springs.

A.O.: Although I’m not a big fan of hiking I love all the different trails around the Pajarito Plateau, you can see a myriad of different wildlife on them.

PEEC: What is your favorite animal at PEEC and why?

W.S.: The salamanders; Titus and Tam, because they have a lot of character. They are also our oldest animals, they’ve been with us a long time.

A.O.: My favorite critters are the Tiger Salamanders. I don’t know why but they seem very friendly and are incredibly interesting even though they hide all the time.

PEEC: Do you have any funny stories about you experiences here at PEEC?

W.S.: One time we were adding new ants to the ant exhibit. We had to remove the glass to vacuum the tunnels. While we were doing this, the old ants swarmed out all over the floor. It was a mess! Another time when I was holding Rosa, a child asked if the snake was highly venomous. I said, “I hope not!”

A.O.: One of the funniest things that happened to me was when I was answering some questions about Rosa and got asked what we fed her. I answered that we bought frozen mice and had to heat them up in warm water because no one, not even the snakes, wants to eat frozen food! Then, one of the ladies who was listening asked if heating the mice up brought them back to life.

PEEC: What new things have you learned volunteering at PEEC?

W.S.: I’ve learned how to work with other people. The critter care staff makes a great team!

A.S.: I’ve learned more from PEEC than I have from many of my school courses. I’ve learned how to tell snakes apart even though one mimics the other, I’ve learned where to find many of these animals and how to approach them or if it’s better to leave them alone and I’ve also learned how vital these animals are to different ecosystems and that although some animals are disgusting and I don’t want them anywhere near me they exist where they’re supposed to and I should just let them be.

If you are interested in learning more about PEEC and the Los Alamos Nature Center at 2600 Canyon Road visit peecnture.org. To learn more about volunteering, ask to speak with Christa Tyson, Volunteer Coordinator, or send her an email.

1 thought on “Featured Volunteers: Will Schmidt and Annika Olsen”

  1. Bill & Joyce Olsen

    It’s refreshing to read about young people who are obviously bright and articulate and willing to commit their time to a volunteer organization like PEEC.

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