About Ashley

Hey, I’m Ashley, though I’ll probably stick to Ash most of the time. I’m the one that runs our Twitter account and who first got the idea for this site. Why? Because I want to share my passion for animals with other like-minded people (and possibly change the minds of those who don’t see eye-to-eye with me). If you’d like to know how important animals are to me, read on about my experiences with them! I have loved animals since, well, forever. I cannot remember a time in my life where animals have not played a vital role.

Growing up in Austin, Texas, I raised an entire tank full of garden snails and amazed the judges at my school’s science fair as I let them slime up and down my arms. One of my grandma’s favorite stories to tell about me as a young toddler is that we were working in her garden one day and she told me she was going in to get poison for the pests. When she returned she found me crying and picking all the little bugs I could find off of the plants and placing them in a coffee can where they would be safe. Sea World at San Antonio was like a second home to me when I was young and I had the privilege of being the one to touch my favorite dolphin, Starbuck’s, belly button to make him swim around the pool upside down and to be spit on by the beluga whales. I have a distinct memory of feeding a hungry doe, with fawn in tow, my peanut butter and honey sandwich. My mom still loves to tell anyone who will listen about how I have always gone out after rainstorms to gather up all the earthworms I could off the roads and driveways and return them to the safety of the grass.

Some of my greatest experiences with animals came when my family had the amazing opportunity to live in Singapore and travel around Southeast Asia. I have reached out to orphaned orangutans in the jungles of Borneo and had them trust me enough to reciprocate the gesture. I have helped save baby sea turtles on the tiny island of Selingan. I have seen all sorts of primates, from macaques to proboscis monkeys to langurs. I’ve encountered wild yaks in the Himalayas of Bhutan and pet baby sharks in the petting pool at Underwater World on Sentosa Island. I also made the Singapore Zoological Gardens and Night Zoo my new home away from home as I began to learn the intricacies of allowing zoo animals to remain as wild as possible. One of the greatest experiences of my life was being attacked by a Royal Bengal Tiger while on an elephant safari in Bardia National Park in Nepal. To date that is the story that gets the most looks of utter wonderment from listeners.

When we left Singapore to move to Minnesota, my interest in animals only continued to grow. I attended summer camps at the Wildlife Science Center where I learned about wolf behavior and conservation. I volunteered for awhile at a local cat shelter where I cared for and socialized the residents. During my senior year I was able to take a biology class that taught how to do census trapping of small rodents, how to mist net and tag song birds and allowed me to raise my own chickens. I was also honored with being able to help my teacher raise peregrine falcon chicks as part of the breeding program for this endangered species. I also, of course, continued to round up gangs of neighborhood kids to rescue frogs from storm windows and earthworms from the roads.

Since animals are my passion, I have always known that my career path would somehow involve them, though the exact job has taken on many forms. Over the years I have proclaimed that I would be anything from a marine biologist to a field researcher to a zookeeper. As such, I chose to go to a school where I could better focus my life’s ambitions. At Northland College, in Northern Wisconsin, I received my Bachelor of Science degrees in both Biology and Animal Psychology. Through the various classes I took there, I was able to participate in some incredible experiences. As a member of the Wolf Research Team, I conducted howl and tracking surveys of local packs for the Wisconsin DNR. I had a semester long internship with the local humane officer where I not only rode along for calls and cared for the animals that came into the pound but was entrusted with fostering a mom dog and her 5 newborn puppies (one of which now lives with my mom). One of my favorite projects involved working with a snow leopard at the Superior Zoo in Duluth, MN to help illicit natural behaviors and reduce cage behaviors. I also worked with a shelter dog, a pit bull named Molly, to make her more adoptable. My studies in Biology culminated in a proposed study on the effects of different methods in deterring wolf predation on livestock. My final project for my Psychology degree was a study I conducted on the intelligence of mixed versus purebred dogs.

Beyond all of that, a lot of my love for animals has come from my personal experience with mine and other people’s pets. Over the years I have had dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, rats, hamsters, mice, geckos, birds, fish, snakes and even chickens as pets. Currently between Nikki and I, we have 3 dogs, 5 cats, 2 ferrets, 6 rats, a fish and a snake. I seem to have a knack for finding the right animals because all of mine fit into the family perfectly and animals that I have found for other people seem made for one another.

As you can see, my connection with animals has always been strong and my need to try and help them has been groomed by a lifetime of experiences. I think I am just innately able to read animals and to understand them in a way that lets me connect with them very easily. I have formed bonds with so many animals over the years and every single one of them has had an impact on my life. From the wild tiger we encountered on that fateful day to the pampered pups currently sleeping at my side, they will always hold special places in my heart.

Because of all of this I want to do everything I can to enhance the lives of animals everywhere. I think this is one way that I can really accomplish my goal. Of course I’ll also be personally working with animals but I figure that every little bit helps. I hope you’ll enjoy this site and that you’ll keep coming back to see how everything evolves! Speaking of which, this site would not be possible without Nikki’s help. I’m the one with all these wild ideas but she’s the one that knows how to actually make them a reality. She’s the one that got me to really realize the potential of the internet. She also inspires me to follow my heart, so here we are!

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    Ashley Niels
    • Ashley is a twenty-five year old animal advocate. She graduated from Northland College with a degree in Animal Psychology and Biology and plans to pursue a career helping animals around the world.

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