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WHEREIN we speak with Jesse Knudsen Castañeda about her organization's experiences on YouTube! Find more below:

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Hi, my name's Peter and this is Go Verb a Noun. If you've never seen Animal Wonders before, you're really missing out. Jessi Knudsen Castaneda and her husband Augusto run Animal Wonders Incorporated, a non-profit whose mission is to adopt animals in need, make sure they have a place to live out the rest of their lives comfortably and use these animals to educate others in their local community. But they also have an online presence! Jessi is the person responsible for bringing animals to SciShow Talk Show, and earlier this year, the folks at DFTBA helped Animal Wonders' own channel go through a reboot, allowing them to help educate people around the world.

This week, Jessi's talking to us about rescuing and raising animals, as well as some of the differences between educating online versus educating in person, which at this point, we're fairly familiar with! So let's check it out.

Jessi: My name's Jessi Knudsen Castaneda and I am the director and wildlife educator for Animal Wonders Incorporated.

Peter: Why did you decide to make a channel for Animal Wonders?

Jessi: I started it, um, because I wanted to share the animals with more people than locally... Um, and YouTube was just a great way to really broaden- international! I mean, that was the whole point. More knowledge! (laughs)

Peter: What's surprised you about being on YouTube?

Jessi: Well, the very first video we uploaded was called "Kemosabe's Tree Fort" and it- it went viral. We have over a million views and it- it was really overwhelming! I didn't think- I didn't think that would happen, and I didn't think I would be so overwhelmed by it. Um, kinda made me nauseous! (laughs) And then we were like, wow, this is actually gonna be something, do something! And so we put out another one and it got like, 1,500 views (laughs) and then we found, you know, it's a happy medium. We get between you know, ten and twenty thousand views on a video now, and that's a lot more normal. But when people started recognizing me that I didn't know, that was also weird! (laughs) I wasn't expecting that. I wasn't expecting that. And then also I was not expecting to um, be asked to part with EcoGeek, with Hank Green, and uh... Work with his community as well. And that was huge- that was really amazing. That- I'm glad that happened. So all those things were really unexpected. I really enjoy the feedback. I was expecting the commenters on YouTube to be quite nasty, um... You know. They have a reputation (laughs) um... The comments- YouTube's comment section definitely has a reputation. Um, I was really pleasantly surprised that our community that we've created is so awesome. I mean, they're just so nice! 90% of it is positive feedback or questions about "can you do this?" "can you answer this question?" and 10% of it is just, whatever. You know. Just- they're just nowhere really on topic. Um, so that was really unexpected that that was going to be so pleasant of an experience. And we didn't really have that big of a community before we rebooted. I mean, there was- we had some followers, but they were mostly followers from Facebook - they came over - or local people that'd we'd done shows before, for. Yeah, the community that happened because of that partnership was... I love them! They're awesome! (laughs)

Peter: What's it like to make the jump from educating in person to educating on YouTube?

Jessi: That was hard.  Um, I work a lot with my body and I guess you could kind of relate it to like, theater, like Broadway, except I'm not that big, not that big of a scale, but a small-scale Broadway to film and so, you know, I've--I have to figure out how I'm going to portray what I mean by using my surroundings and going to different locations instead of using my body and acting it out.  So that was huge.  And then I got a lot of feedback from people that I was just too big of a personality which happens when you entertain kindergartners in person for an hour at a time, so that was, I mean, that was a jump, too.  And I'm also doing older audiences now, too, so that was, it was a double jump in who my audience was.  But yeah, it was difficult and I'm still, I think I'm still finding my stride on video, um, I was surprisingly actually comfortable in front of a camera.  I thought I was going to be more nervous.  I still get nervous, but it's definitely different 'cause you don't have that feedback from them, so I just play it all in my head and I pretend that they're really excited so then I get even more excited and yeah.  Make-believe.  

Peter: Has having the Animal Wonders channel had an effect on the Animal Wonders organization?

Jessi: We've gotten a few more local clients because they found us through YouTube or they were part of like, the nerdfighter community and then, you know, they're like, we can have Jessi come to our house.  Um, which is a weird thing, but it's cool at the same time, so we've gone to a few more clients, and we've gotten quite a few more donations, so we've been able to do some projects like, we were able to rescue a raven and build a whole new enclosure to keep that raven in, so that was a huge impact there, and I guess really defining our mission and our point of view, our position in animal care-taking world, I guess that's been--I mean, the spotlight's on us now, and so we really, really need to make these positions clear.  So yeah, it has had an impact.  Now, we're getting into a kind of, for a bit, I was kind of avoiding the really hard questions, but then I'm like, you know what, this is, I feel like this is my responsibility now, to really address these difficult, you know, um, controversial issues.  Um.  So yeah, still nervous, nerve-wracking, I guess, it's--but uh, I think it's important.  I feel it's my responsibility now.  

Peter: What's the process of taking in a new animal?

Jessi: Every single case is completely different, and I was going to do a video about this, um, it's hard, because, you know, it's such an individual process for each animal.  So, we can do the raven, 'cause he's brand new.  Um, so, we had no space for a raven, we weren't even imagining that we would take a raven in, um, I'd expressed to one of my rehabber friends, she does raptor rehab, uh, all bird rehab, basically, she takes them in, fixes them up, and puts them back in the wild, if they can go.  And um, years ago, we were talking about it, she was like, 'Oh, what would, you know, what animals have you loved working with or would like to work with in the future?' and I named a couple and one of them was a raven.  So years later down the road, she called me up and said, 'Hey!  I have this raven, broken wing, already healed in the wild, it's really skinny, can't, you know, I fed it up, um, he's doing good now, but he cannot be released.  And he's really calm, he's, you know, a calm personality, I think he'd make a good education animal, and uh, so we have to weigh--okay, personally, emotionally, yes, I want a raven!  That's so exciting!  Um, can we house it?  Can we feed it for its entire life, and can we do education with it?  Those are the three really important things.  Um, I guess, the last really important thing is how is that going to impact the rest of our animals, because the animals we have now, that's our first priority, we're responsible for them for the rest of their life, that's what we feel, that's what we believe, um, so we go, okay, um, let's, let's address all these things.  We know how to feed a raven, we've handled and worked with ravens before, so, we can take it in, um, can we afford it?  That was a different thing.  So we'd just gotten a bunch of new donations in from our new community and we had increased our shows so we're growing every year, and so we went, you know, we have to build a new enclosure for our hawk anyway, let's um, let's combine this.  Let's put the raven and the hawk, let's build this entire enclosure for both of them, and it'll be a win-win and we, you know, we crunched the numbers, and we were able to get him.  So, can we do education with him?  That was our last question, and that was to be determined, we don't know, so we kinda jumped into that without really knowing the answer to that, um, because when you get permits, oh, you also have to get permits for 'em, that's no simple little thing, but it kind of is for us, 'cause we have all the education and everything like that, um, so our contact said that the raven was handle-able and wasn't really biting and stuff, so we're like, okay, we're going off that and just crossing our fingers, 'cause we are required to do 12 shows a year with an educational animal like a raven.  We have to.  And we don't want to stress the animals out, so we have to figure out how we're gonna do that.  So, we took him in, we built the enclosure, we went over and got the raven, um, she was keeping him in a temporary enclosure, until we could come get him.  And brought him over in a crate and opened him up, opened the crate up and let him run out and uh, then we just worked with behavior.  And assess and assess and interact and form a trust bond and figure out how are we going to approach this, how are we going to train, it's been almost two months now and he's taken--he finally got a name, it took forever for us to name him, his name is Rook, and he's just now in this week, he started taking food from a hand, willingly.  So I just put out a hand and he'll take food from it.  So there's definitely hope.  I just bought some equipment to have him on my hand, we're gonna start working on hand training, and then we'll be good to go and we'll get those shows out of the way.  Get 'em done.  So yeah, that's, that's that experience.  It's shorter for like a parrot, 'cause we're all set up for a parrot, but.

Peter: Is it, like, when you get kind of an exotic animal, do you have to do, like, some, a little bit of research before it's like, what exactly does a cavy eat?

Jessi: Yes, definitely.  Yep.  For Kemosabe, our prehensile-tailed porcupine, he's probably our most famous guy, I had never worked with one personally, I had friends and colleagues and acquaintances that had worked, and I've established this network of zoos and other private facilities and vets that work in zoos, and we have one on our board, actually, and uh, they help us a lot with nutrition and vet care and the right kind of habitat and temperature and humidity and everything like that, and just to make sure that yeah, we can, there's definitely animals that we cannot house, they're just, when they ask 'can you take in a hyena?', we say 'sorry, no.'  'Can you take an alligator?'  'Nope, not that one either.'  

Peter: What's your favorite thing about doing what you do?

Jessi: Oh, there's, there's so many favorite things that I do!  I like cleaning, I do, it's just, it's just very satisfying to have a dirty space and clean it and know that, 'hey, that animal has like a nice happy little home now and they're happy, yay!'  So I like, I like the cleaning aspect, um, I like observing their whole digestive cycle, I guess, you know, I'm just choosing what types of food to put in them, they're eating it, I get to watch that happen, and then they poop it out, and I get to see, hey, they're healthy and ha--, so you know, um, I like that.  The feeding process as well, um, I like making the diets, I always try to get creative, which can get colorful, I really like colorful diets for them, um I like it, they like it.  The education part, probably one of my favorite parts, um, one of them, they're all my favorites, I don't know, it's hard.  So education, so just getting in front of people and telling them about what I'm passionate about, it's huge, I mean, I get that's different in the YouTube world, I don't get to see that happen, but the comments that I get back, you know, let me know that they are enjoying this, but seeing the kids in person, that's huge, that's huge, or teaching them in summer and then seeing them in the off--you know, in the wintertime or whatever, just passing by, they're like, 'Hey, it's the animal lady!  I know that blue-tongued skinks, you know, they have warning colors and they lose their tail, they can grow it back!'  They tell me these things that I told them a long time--it's just the best thing ever.  Oh, a great example, Hank Green has a quiz show on SciShow, SciShow Quiz Show, and one of the questions on there was 'Can turtles feel through their shell?'  and I had done a video about that about a month ago, and I had commenters saying, on that video, on the quiz show, saying 'Jessi taught me that they can feel through their shell' and I'm like, yes!  That's awesome!  So, I mean, stuff I'm passionate about is now taking little seats in their brain and it's there and it's just amazing, and then um, I also love the behavior, animal behavior is um, probably the thing that just keeps me going, just, I wish I could do more of it, I mean, I'm surrounded by it every single day, um, but I wish I could really do it all day long, just watching animals and then training animals, teaching them how to comm--this, this awesome communi--this awesome language that both of us have to learn, and it's neither human language nor the animal's language, it's this in-between language that we both get to discover and interact with on that level, it's just incredibly fascinating to me and I love it.  

Peter: We're cool.

Jessi: We're there.  We're there.  What can we do with this, though?  See then, I get excited, I'm like, we got this connection, okay, where can we go with it?  Whoo, yeah, it's exciting.  I hate the business part.  I needed to throw that in there.  

Peter: I think that's fair.  I will make sure that that is on there.

Do you have any advice for someone who might want to become an educator on YouTube?

Jessi: The biggest advice I'd have for someone wanting to do education on YouTube is to find your passion, because that's what's going to resonate with the audience, and that's how you're gonna find followers, is you have to be passionate about something.  Um, and let that be seen.  Um, and don't be intimidated by, if there is a negative comment, ignore it and just keep doing what you're passionate about.  Yeah.  That's, I guess that's life advice, too.  Just do it.  Ohh, that's Nike.  Nooo, noooo.  Be somebody!  That's Animal Wonders' new slogan.  

Peter: Yaaay!

Jessi: Yaaaay!

Peter: I personally think that what Jessi does is amazing.  By working with these animals throughout their lifetime, and kind of finding a middle ground where she and they can communicate, she helps them become their own ambassadors.  Although it didn't make it to interview, once she and I were done talking, she actually brought me behind the scenes and introduced me to all of her zero through eight legged friends, and it was amazing.  This was, by far, one of the most amazing moments of my life.  And it brings to mind a quote by Charles Darwin, "From so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved."  By the way, that's on display at one of the exhibits at the Field Museum in Chicago.  But enough about me, what about you?  Can you think of a time in your life when an educator has just hit it out of the ball park?  A time when you walked away in awe, basking in the wonder that derives from a fully stimulated sense of curiosity?  Let me know in the comments below, or on the social medium of your choice, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, although nobody ever uses Instagram, uhh, I'm looking forward to hearing from you guys.  Alright, guys, that's all I got.  As always, thank for caring and I'll see you guys next time.  Alright.  Bye.