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Rhiannon L. Schultz

Welcome to My Site

Thank you for visiting! Explore my site to learn more about me, my background and what I have to offer. If you have questions or would like to discuss an opportunity to work together, feel free to get in touch.

Home: Welcome


My story starts in the tiniest towns of rural America where populations never broke 100 and cows outnumber people 4:1. I grew up in South Dakota and Montana, spending chunks of time at each of my parents' respective households. This house-bouncing allowed me to attend multiple schools and experience lots of the little corners of country existence. My best adventures were taking books with me into the vast nature that surrounded our house. I would take a book about rocks or insects or plants and go for hours trying to identify everything that I found. I was a "scientist" nearly from birth, and if you ask my mother, to this day, she will tell you that my favorite phrase as a child was, “but why?”

Later, this pursuit of learning and adventuring into the natural world led me to attend university in California where I dived deep into wildlife behavior and conservation. I continue to follow my passion for science through volunteering, teaching, research, and my work with San Diego Zoo Global. 

I intend to never stop asking "why?"

My Experience

Background & Expertise

Ph.D. Candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow
University of Georgia

May 2020 - Current

I am currently a Ph.D. Candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Georgia in the Department of Anthropology. I study the energetics, activity, nutrition, and health of gorillas house in zoological institutions.

Animal Welfare Project Manager
Animal Welfare Expertise

May 2022 - Current

I currently serve as the Project Manager for Animal Welfare Expertise, a consultancy focused on developing species-specific welfare assessments and advising animal care teams for zoo and aquarium facilities around the world. We use the latest science to provide objective data and advice, specializing in animals living under human care.

Smithsonian Intern
Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation biology Institute

June - December 2022

I served as an NSF-funded intern at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI-NZP). I shared this experience across multiple departments including the Center for Species Survival, the Department of Nutrition Science, the Department of Wildlife Health Sciences, and the Primate Unit at the National Zoo.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Mike Power (Animal Scientist) and Becky Malinsky (Curator of Primates) this internship focused on providing professional development experiences in project management, problem-solving, discussion facilitation, and other skills pertinent to filling a leadership role in major research organizations and/or zoological institutions. I gained skills in nutritional analysis of food samples, the development of diet protocols, diet preparation, animal husbandry, and in body condition scoring, and shadowed the behavioral training for several species.​

Research Coordinator
San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research

July 2019 - August 2020

As a Research Coordinator for the Community Engagement team at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, I primarily worked to coordinate and facilitate courses for the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP). The AIP is a project-based graduate program offered in partnership between Miami University and San Diego Zoo Global. I worked to develop curriculum, advised students, managed program logistics, and delivered courses.

Senior Research Associate
San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research

May 2017- June 2019

I served the San Diego Zoo Community Engagement team as a Senior Research Associate. My responsibilities included coordinating and managing a collaborative internship program with the Bureau of Land Management, developing conservation science-based curriculum, delivering conservation science lessons to groups ranging from 6th grade to graduate level, general laboratory prep and safety management, and assisting in the coordination of the Advanced Inquiry Program

Graduate Research Intern

May 2015 - December 2015

While I was earning my Masters degree I interned with the Population Sustainability team at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. My duties included collecting animal behavioral data (mainly with primates), developing methods for animal identification, training volunteers for data collection, and conducting inquiries on the implications of zoological enclosure matrices on animal behavior.


Formal Academic Training


PhD, Anthropology
University of Georgia

Athens, GA

I am a PhD Candidate in the Anthropology Department at the University of Georgia (anticipated completion in 2025). I study the health and welfare of western lowland gorillas living under human care. I work in the Primate Behavioral Ecology Lab under the supervision of Dr. Roberta Salmi. 

December 2016

MA, Biology
Miami University

Oxford, OH

I earned my Master of Arts degree in Biology from Miami University through the Advanced Inquiry Program at the San Diego Zoo. My work focused on the implications and prevention of interspecies disease transmission in primates. Using mainly gorilla species as an example, I worked toward improving disease prevention protocols to aid in conservation efforts.

December 2013

BA, Biological Anthropology
University of California, San Diego

San Diego, CA

I attended the University of California in San Diego to obtain my Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology with a concentration in Biological Anthropology, earning Provost Honors. My program focus was on primate behavioral ecology , leading me to study abroad in Kenya on the Rutgers University Primate Behavior, Wildlife Ecology, and Conservation Field School in the summer of 2013.

August 2018

Certificate, Professional Grant Writing
San Diego State University

San Diego, CA

I attended San Diego State University to complete a certificate program in Professional Grant Writing. This program included training on methods for finding funding, effective application strategies and aspects of thorough reporting.


I feel strongly that pursuing and developing a wide range of skills is not only the key to a holistic approach for research, but is also the key to applying science in a practical way. Take a look below to learn more about my specific abilities and feel free to get in touch if you’d like to learn more.



Working at the Bench

  • Completed Biotechnology Training

  • Experience with micro-pipetting, gel electrophoresis, PCR, lab safety protocol maintenance, chemical clean up and disposal, as well as teaching in a lab setting

  • San Diego Zoo Community Engagement Lab Safety Officer May 2017-October 2018

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Photo by San Diego Zoo Global


Sharing the Passion

Graduate Teaching Assistant

University of Georgia

August 2020- current


Course Facilitator

Advanced Inquiry Program (graduate level)

May 2017 - Current (courses recur every year)


Instructor and Curriculum Development

Teacher Workshops in Conservation Science (post baccalaureate)

San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research

May 2017 - October 2018


Instructor and Curriculum Development

Exploring Conservation Science Field Trips (6th grade through undergraduate level)

San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research

May 2017 - November 2018


On-call Instructor

Cuyamaca Outdoor School (grades 5-6)

San Diego County Department of Education

September 2015 - September 2016



Beyond the Books

General maintenance and construction skills including woodworking, power tool use, welding experience, machinery operation, basic automotive mechanics, and equipment repair


Training for Success

  • Project Management for Wildlife Conservation Certificate

  • Conservation Measures Partnership Open Standards Training

  • Certified Interpretive Guide 

  • Wilderness First Aid Certified

  • AED and CPR Certified

  • Operant Conditioning Certificate

  • Environmental law and federal compliance regulations training (includes IACUC and IRB)



Know What You Love

  • Experience in animal care, handling, diet prep, and management training (primates, hooved stock, canines, passerines, psittacines, raptors, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects)

  • Companion Animal Nutrition Training

  • Wildlife Rehabilitation Protocol Development experience

  • Rabies Vector Species & Zoonotic Disease Management Training

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Using the Right Tools

  • Proficient skills in statistical analyses and software (R and SPSS)

  • Extensive skills in Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Word Processor, Outlook, Galaxy Point of Sale Software, Apple Operating Systems/software, and data collection/surveying software 

  • Proficiency in ArcGIS mapping software and Survey123 data collection software

  • Experience with GPS technologies and radio telemetry practices (includes wildlife collaring and tracking)


Rising to the Challenge

  • President, Anthropology Graduate Student Organization, 2020-2021

  • Anthropology Undergraduate Mentorship Program, Mentor – University of Georgia, 2020- current

  • Miami University Alumni Mentor, 2020

  • San Diego Zoo Global “Zooperstar” Employee Recognition Recipient, 2019

  • San Diego Zoo Executive Team Recognition Award, 2018

  • Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair Judge, 2018

  • Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering (BeWiSE) Workshop Chaperone, 2018

  • Jane Goodall Institute Roots and Shoots Youth Summit Volunteer, 2017

  • Student Leader

         Advanced Inquiry Program 

         August - December 2015


Science in Action

Volunteer Researcher

Colobus Conservation Ltd. — Kenya

September 2016 - December 2016

Foci: coastal forest biodiversity, wildlife rehabilitation, incentivizing community-based conservation initiatives, human dimensions in conservation


Primate Conservation and Southeast Asia Ecology Earth Expedition — Borneo

June 2016

Foci: primate conservation, forest ecology, community-based conservation, human-wildlife conflict mitigation, alternative/sustainable livelihood development


Graduate Research Intern

San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research

March 2015 - January 2016

Foci: zoological enclosure metrics, captive animal welfare, behavioral observations and identification methods in primates, primate socio-sexual behavior


Primate Behavior, Wildlife Ecology, and Conservation Field School - Kenya

July - August 2013
Foci: primatology field methods, primate feeding ecology and mother-infant relationships, habitat assessment, ungulate and carnivore ecology, nutrient sourcing in Tana River red colobus, Pilicolobus rufomitratus.

Laptop Writing

Photo by Denise Fleener.



My main interests include wildlife conservation, wildlife health, community-based conservation, primate behavior, animal nutrition, and animal husbandry. My research focuses on primate nutrition and health, including methods used to measure and conceptualize nutrient intake and requirements, biomarker analysis as determinants of health state, welfare implications of diets fed in captivity, and how dietary modifications in nonhuman primates might inform both historical and contemporary human health. I have a special interest in investigating the nutrition of captive gorillas and how the contemporary diets fed in zoological institutions and sanctuaries impacts their cardiovascular and metabolic health.


I am very passionate about social equity and the inclusion of underrepresented groups in science and other fields. I especially advocate for the encouragement of and support for women in STEAM and enthusiastically support strengthening opportunities for LGBTQ+ individuals. I also firmly believe that science belongs to everyone and would like to continue working to improve science outreach, advocacy, communication, and education to rural and underserved communities. 


"Whatever you are, be a good one."

Abraham Lincoln

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Let’s Connect!

Thanks for reaching out!

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