Wild About Animals
One of Kiah Stewart’s fondest memories comes from her childhood home in Sandpoint. Each winter, she watched moose eat fermented apples off the trees in her front yard, then fall asleep in the snow.
“That was the first time I can remember falling in love with animals,” Stewart said. It was a love that would continue throughout her life.
Stewart now leads U of I’s Laboratory Animal Research Facility (LARF), managing all of its operational activities. Among other things, she oversees animal care staff and ensures compliance with state and federal laws.
Stewart is no stranger to U of I. She earned her Bachelor of Science in wildlife resources with a minor in fishery resources from U of I in December 2015.
“I started out in pre-med, and it was just not my path,” Stewart said. “By the time I changed majors, I knew animals were going to be part of my future.”
Shortly after graduation, Stewart looked for work in the Moscow area.
“I applied to the LARF as an animal research aide a few months after I graduated, but I didn’t hear back for over a month,” Stewart said. “The day after my husband and I decided to move back to Sandpoint I got called in for an interview.”
Stewart says her love for animals got her the job.
For the next two years, Stewart honed her skills as an animal research aide, engaging in animal husbandry and custodial care, managing records and training staff before taking a brief hiatus and returning as the facility manager.
“My facility-specific knowledge helped a lot with my transition to the management role,” Stewart said. “I know some of the inner workings of the facility and can provide assistance with minimal training.”
Stewart truly enjoys her new role.
“It’s been a great transition,” she said. “I get to interact with the animals and spend time with a diverse group of people, from new and really established researchers to students, principal investigators and lab techs.”
A Natural Path
Animals are a constant theme in Stewart’s life. She has had a dog, a cat, birds and fish to constantly entertain her, both at and away from home.
“Our dog, Shadow, would go camping and huckleberry picking with us,” she said. “When we were done, we’d go swimming in the river. Shadow would always think we were drowning and would jump in to save us. When she got to us, she would turn around, let us hold her tail and tow us back into shore.”
Stewart gravitated toward animals as she looked for work, volunteering to walk dogs and play with cats at the local animal shelter during high school. During college, she interned at Mystic Farm Wildlife Rescue in Sagle, caring for injured and orphaned fawns.
“That was the best summer ever,” Stewart said. “I lived in a tiny, dry, rustic cabin. Getting direct contact with wildlife every day was amazing.”