Cheryl Morris, a graduate of the University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences, said something interesting happens every day at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.
As the Director of Comparative Nutrition, Morris is charged with managing the diets for the entire animal collection, in addition to developing diets that meet the specific needs of animals’ clinical conditions identified by the veterinary staff. These conditions may be simple weight issues or they may be complex conditions such as diabetes.
“Developing diets to help improve the quality of life of animals with clinical conditions is extremely gratifying,” she said. “With so few animal nutritionists working in U.S. zoos and aquariums, I enjoy the opportunity to share my experiences with student interns to promote this field as a career opportunity.”
She oversees the zoo’s nutrition and behavioral husbandry programs. This includes managing their centralized diet kitchen where the staff is responsible for budgeting, purchasing and storing food, in addition to formulating and preparing the animals’ diets.
“In addition to clinical research, our nutrition laboratory focuses on quality control analyses,” she said. “Our behavioral husbandry program includes advancing animal training for medical procedures as well as improving animal health and well-being through applications of species-appropriate environmental enrichment.”
Morris specializes in raw meat diet formulations for carnivores. She has formulated raw meat diets for tigers with kidney failure and improved the diets of crickets in order to increase their vitamin A and carotenoid levels for consumption by critically endangered amphibians.
“Today my challenge is to help a sea turtle with elevated blood calcium levels,” she said. “But my favorite experience was creating a formula to successfully hand-raise an orphaned giraffe calf.”