Kimberly McDermid, left, draws blood from a lion in Botswana.

Standout students can be any age and at any stage of their educational life, which is what INtown discovered with October’s pick, Kimberly McDermid.

McDermid lives in Boulevard Heights, which is just one street over from where she works at Grant Park as a registered veterinary technician for Zoo Atlanta. However, her educational and career path is taking her on far-flung mission to help save an endangered species – African lions.

As part of her studies for a master’s degree in science at the University of Georgia, McDermid traveled to Botswana this past summer to collect blood samples on lions. She is hoping to discover what infectious diseases these lions could have contracted from livestock or domestic animals that have moved into their area. This could help in developing management and conservation strategies that can help protect not only this small population but all lions struggling to live in the wild. African lion numbers are drastically declining.  McDermid said The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is even considering placing African lions on the Endangered Species List as the big cats fall to hunters, destruction of their habitat and the introduction of new diseases.

“I’ve always loved big cats and lions, specificially,” McDermid said. “Something clicked when I came to work at Zoo Atlanta, and I knew I wanted to get on the ground and work with free-ranging lions to have some kind of positive impact on those left in the wild.”

McDermid is going into her third semester and admits that working full-time and completing a master’s degree is a “heavy load.”

“I really must love lions if I’m going to put myself through this,” she laughed. “There’s the debt, the un-ending study of statistics and getting back and forth to Africa.

McDermid lived in a bush camp for 30 days while completing her research this summer, which she described as a “good exercise in patience.” Not surprisingly, she’s already making plans to head back to Africa next summer.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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