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Jenna Malzahn

Major: Evolutionary Anthropology and Sociology, with a sub-plan of Law, Justice, and Social Change
Graduated in 2017
 

The Animal Lover

Jenna Malzahn roots for the underdog—literally.

“Foxes, coyotes, wolves—those are all my cup of tea,” says Malzahn. “A lot of the time, people don’t like them. I want to understand why that’s the case.” She explains how, for example, the Grimm Brothers’ early 19th-century version of “Little Red Riding Hood” fueled the eradication of wolves in Western Europe due to fear and misinformation.

“I want to fix misconceptions like that and actually teach people that these animals are good—that they are really important to our ecosystem,” she says.

Malzahn grew up watching Animal Planet, but could never have imagined that she’d be double-majoring in evolutionary anthropology and sociology and studying human-animal conflict at U-M. But she wasn’t in LSA long before she began to see the connections—in fact, it was her first-year introductory biology class that sparked her interest. “It was geared toward primates and which species are most closely related to humans,” she says. “I learned so much and just loved it.”

Sophomore year, Malzahn became involved in U-M’s Student Animals and Society Institute (SASI). The group is dedicated to examining “the complex and multidimensional relationships between humans and other animals,” working to “expand, question, debate and enhance this field for students,” according to its website. 

 

 

 

 

Malzahn is excited to get more robust research experience, beginning with a job at LSA's Museum of Natural History. “I’m helping them to catalogue their mollusk specimens. It will help me learn about research—my name will be on papers, and it’s funded by the National Science Foundation.”

 

Malzahn says that in SASI, she learned more about inequities in conservation. “Certain animals are cuter and are deemed more important to save. There are snails that no one cares about, but are really critical—they help plants; they help every aspect of the ecosystem. We should be talking more about these snails.”

This past summer, Malzahn interned at the Northwoods Wildlife Center in Minocqua, Wisconsin. There, she focused on educating community members about local wildlife and helping rehabilitate animals that may have suffered from human interaction. She worked with birds of prey, deer, and—her favorite—an injured coyote pup that was brought to the center for rehabilitation. At the end of the summer, the little pup was joined by another coyote pup to form a tiny band (the technical name for a group of coyotes).

She says educating the public about the importance of these animals was both exciting and fulfilling. “People would call the center and say, ‘We want an animal removed,’ and our job was to ensure that the people were safe, but we want to help them learn to live with the animal. We all have to live with nature.”

Looking ahead, Malzahn is excited to get more robust research experience, beginning with a job at LSA's Museum of Natural History. “I’m helping them to catalogue their mollusk specimens. It will help me learn about research—my name will be on papers, and it’s funded by the National Science Foundation.” She’s also working at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital and is thinking about reaching out to another facility in Ann Arbor that specifically helps birds of prey.

Malzahn has her sights set on graduate school, but is certain that she’ll take a year off before she pursues anything specific. But whatever it is, it will involve helping animals and humans coexist on a rapidly changing planet.

“I want to continue this work because it’s had such an impact on me.”

 

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