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Karianna Crowder laughing while rowing a boat on the water.

Zoology grad turned emergency vet saves animals in California

By Kaitlyn Hornbuckle

When it comes to healing cats and dogs in a sunny California beach town, emergency veterinarian Karianna Crowder ‘17 is up to the task. Each morning at Pacific and Santa Cruz Veterinary Specialists, she greets her coworkers, grabs her chart and runs from room to room, making a positive difference one pet at a time.

When she was a kid, she always wanted to be a cat. After learning that wasn’t a career option, she figured the next best thing was to be a veterinarian. With a passion for animals and biology, she entered the zoology program at Oregon State in the College of Science.

“I was drawn to the sciences and less so to agriculture my whole life. When it comes to wanting to be a small animal veterinarian, I wanted to focus more on the science behind it,” Crowder said. “I remember liking that zoology had more of an animal-focused form of biology.”

Not to mention, it’s the only zoology program offered in the entire state of Oregon.

Every year, she becomes more comfortable with surgeries that change a pet’s life for the better, such as eye removal, laceration repairs and tail amputations.

When taking swabs to watch bacteria grow on Petri dishes and deciding whether it is best to prescribe antibiotics or go the antimicrobial route, she remembers what she was taught in her biology and microbiology courses at Oregon State. Without that base level of knowledge, it would be more difficult to choose the best treatments for pets needing emergency care.

Karianna Crowder hugging a cow and smiling for a photo.

Crowder helps out a calf during a large animal clinical skills lab.

Making pawsitive memories

It didn’t take her long to build a community in the College of Science. She became the president of the Integrative Biology Club and helped organize sleepovers at aquariums and wildlife safaris. There, students met with cheetahs and spent time with the animals behind the scenes.

As co-president of the Pre-Veterinary Scholars Program with the Honors College, she also worked directly with the College of Veterinary Medicine and helped coordinate trips and activities for first-year students.

"Don’t always take no for an answer."

When she landed her first paid summer internship at the Grove Veterinary Clinic in Newport, Oregon, Crowder met veterinarian Marianne Clunes. She wasn’t just any animal doctor — she had a special touch when working with cats. Unfortunately, Clunes passed away from pneumonia after beating cancer in 2021.

“She worked her kitty magic to make every single cat so calm, and she had a reassuring presence around many owners,” Crowder said. “I think about her and that frequently. I try to emulate the way that she gently cared for all of her patients and clients.”

Karianna Crowder hugging her cat while in a snowy forest.

Crowders shows her cat, Sassafras, snow for the first time in Ithaca, NY.

After she returned to campus, navigating the class registration process while simultaneously managing workloads proved tough. Thanks to the support of College of Science advisor Jennifer Olarra, she got the guidance she needed to graduate on time with a high-quality degree in 2017.

After that, Crowder took what she learned at Oregon State to embark on a four-year animal journey at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. In the intensive care unit of Cornell’s teaching hospital, she learned about a variety of surgical techniques, including a successful c-section procedure while on the ‘puppy team.’

Landing her dream job

Once she obtained her graduate degree in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell, she moved to California and now works 12-hour days three times a week. Her everyday routine is a fast-paced revolving door of cute and cuddly friends.

She treats the sickest pets first, but while waiting for the diagnostics results for one pet, she treats the next. As a people person, she looks forward to discussing treatment plans and status updates with the owners and watching the pets recover. These are the biggest rewards of her career.

Despite the long hours, the collaborative work culture makes it all worth it. Being in a place with high retention rates and experienced coworkers are some of the key building blocks for maintaining a healthy work environment. Luckily for Crowder, that’s exactly what she found.

Karianna Crowder at the computer with a smiling dog in her lab at the veterinary clinic.

Crowder writes records with an anxious patient at 3 AM.

“What I really love about being in the emergency room is what you see. Animals can come in hurt or really sick, but then turn around kind of magically. It feels amazing to know you're making a difference and seeing it happen,” Crowder said.

If her student experiences with Oregon State’s College of Science never happened, she might not be where she is now. From experience, she knows that when students aren’t afraid to advocate for themselves, opportunities tend to appear.

Karianna Crowder smiles as she greets a kangaroo.

Crowder meets a kangaroo at a sanctuary in upstate New York.

“Don’t always take no for an answer,” Crowder said. “I was initially told ‘no’ when I wanted to go to Nicaragua with Oregon State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. I asked them five times before they said ‘yes.’ That’s how I was the first undergraduate to go on that trip.”

If you are interested in the Zoology program, click here to visit the major page for more information.