Afro-Latina (Puerto Rican)
Smithsonian's National Zoological Park
Year zoo career began:
Jessica Sosa is a Licensed Veterinary Technician at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo where she administers various degrees of nursing care and medical treatments on the animals of the zoo. Her job has some similarities with a generalized veterinary technician; she helps with veterinary procedures, she assists with sample collection and analysis, and she prepares and distributes medications as prescribed. However, working in a zoo involves a much greater understanding of the diseases, preventative medicine methods, and anatomical and physiological differences of multiple species. Jessica’s favorite part of her job is that every day is different, requiring her to be flexible and think critically. Her favorite species to work with are reptiles, amphibians, and birds, because they are often more challenging and have intricate physiological and anatomical makeup.
Jessica grew up in New York City before moving to Florida for high school, where she began working in a pet store that sold some exotic species including macaques and caimans. At the pet store, Jessica gained a huge amount of animal husbandry skills and knowledge. She began working in human medicine covering a multitude of different areas. She worked as a surgery aide in a hospital, as a Certified Nursing Assistant, a Medical Assistant for a Urologist, and even as a human pathology aide. Jessica was drawn to her early love for animals and began working as a veterinary technician for the University of Florida, where she worked with the collection of four neighboring zoos, injured native wildlife, and privately owned exotic animals. Jessica wanted to work in a situation where she could form a relationship with animals and applied to a veterinary technician position at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo after a suggestion from a veterinary resident. After two previously failed application attempts, Jessica was hired on her third try and began working in her current position in 2010.
As a child in New York City, the extent of Jessica’s animal exposure were the occasional squirrels and overabundance of pigeons. Moving to Florida, where she frequently saw horses and cows, was a big difference. She believes that exposure to animals at a young age is key, and she’s very glad to be able to work at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo because it is located in a major city. Jessica loves that she can expose city residents to conservation and wildlife in their own location. For aspiring zoo veterinary technician, Jessica recommends the “traditional” route of gaining experience through multiple internships or volunteer positions. However, she is proof that anyone can follow an “untraditional” path or change careers and still find a place in the zoo field.