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Fall 2006 - Zoo

Destination Purdue > Fall 2006 - Zoo

Destination Career is a series profiling recent Purdue Agriculture graduates.
For more alumni stories, visit our Destination Career archive.

Feeding the bears - and the lemurs, and the penguins

By Linda Bowman

Deciding what kind of protein diet a 4,000-pound elephant requires isn't what Barbara Lintzenich, thought she'd do when she "grew up." Although she was always interested in exotic animals, she wasn't interested in their nutrition until she went to Purdue University and suddenly saw a world of opportunity.

Barbara Lintzenich

Photo provided by Barbara Lintzenich

Barbara Lintzenich, a 1991 Purdue animal science graduate, feeds a female Sumatran rhino at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens where she is the nutrition manager.

Now, animal nutrition is her career, and she says she wouldn't change a thing. Lintzenich, who received a bachelor's degree in animal science in 1991, is the animal nutrition manager at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. "My job is very broad in that I am still even conducting the research deemed appropriate in the animal nutrition program," Lintzenich said.

She develops, implements and supervises all aspects of the zoo's animal nutrition program. That means she's in charge of such tasks as running a body condition assessment to find out why a polar bear might have gained more weight than normal for the winter, then creating a diet that will keep the bear more fit. Programs such as these are vital to ensure the health of several animals.

Whether it's working with the African penguins, ring-tailed lemurs, or Indo-Chinese tigers, Lintzenich works with all animals at the zoo. She credits taking a wide array of animal science classes at Purdue for helping her career. She says her job is very multi-faceted, including everything from food safety and handling, to quality control, to working closely with animal keepers, researchers and the veterinary staff - all at the same time. She also is very active in research.

Her research includes assessing diet evaluations to find exactly what type of nutrition program, for example, a sloth needs to be on.

Always interested in zoology, Lintzenich began her studies at Purdue in the School of Science, hoping to become a veterinarian. During her freshman year, she said she realized she wanted a smaller atmosphere with more individual attention. She said Purdue Agriculture's Department of Animal Science was the perfect fit. "For me, the classes provided for the animal science degree were tailored to my needs in terms of not being huge and had some really applied information, which is how I learn best," Lintzenich said.

She studied to be a veterinary technologist, debating whether or not to go to graduate school. It wasn't until she became acquainted with Ronald Lemenager, a professor of animal science, that her decision became clear. "As Barbara and I visited, I indicated that one of my previous advisees had a similar interest and that I had recommended that she pursue an internship, and then a graduate degree in nutrition," Lemenager said.

Lemenager introduced Lintzenich to the late Sue Chrissey, formally director of zoo nutrition services at Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Ill., near Chicago. Chrissey made several visits to Purdue and gave several seminars. She encouraged Lintzenich to go to graduate school.

Thanks to this networking, Lintzenich went on to Kansas State University where she earned her master's degree in 1993.