Animal Kingdom and EPCOT Scientist Shares Her Exotic Animal Research With WSU

tree of life (left), nemo and friends aquarium (right)

Although you may think of Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom and EPCOT as theme parks and nothing more, game-changing research is constantly being conducted on the animal inhabitants of these Parks. Dr. Katie Sullivan will soon share some of this research with the American college, Washington State University.

Disney's Kilimanjaro Safaris

Credit: Disney

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At a whopping 580 acres, Animal Kingdom is the largest theme park in the entire world, and it isn’t hard to guess why. The Harambe Wildlife Reserve, coupled with the other animal enclosures, easily makes up the bulk of this space, not to mention the backstage areas required to properly care for and nurture the animal inhabitants.

Over in EPCOT, the Seas With Nemo and Friends is a slow-moving dark ride that deposits Guests into the Sea Base aquariums once the ride is finished. Fun fact: this aquarium is the second largest in the country and was previously the largest aquarium until the Georgia Aquarium was built in 2005.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends

Credit: Disney

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Dr. Katie Sullivan, an animal nutrition scientist in the veterinary field, gets to conduct groundbreaking research with both of these Disney Parks. Not only is she a scientist working with the Walt Disney Company, but she’s also one of the advisors to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, with a “special focus on vitamins and minerals,” according to’s report.

In her talk, Dr. Sullivan will discuss one of the interesting differences between humans and other animals: a dependency on iron. Dr. Sullivan reveals that an iron deficiency is “the number one mineral deficiency in humans,” but that many exotic animals can easily develop an “iron overload,” primarily when held in captivity.

Credit: Disney

READ MORE: Guest Captures a Total ‘Lion King’ Moment During Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safaris

Because it’s so difficult to replicate an exact and hyper-realistic diet for exotic animals living in captivity, it’s the minute details that scientists like Dr. Sullivan look out for. Dr. Katie Sullivan has spent 15 years working with the Walt Disney Company, but across her entire career, she has worked with many different species.

lions in kilimanjaro safaris

Credit: Disney

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She told Washington State University,

I love that my work involves so many different species…We can learn so much from each other[…] We all have  aspects of biochemistry in common across all species. It’s where things are different that we can learn more about endangered species and how to help them.

Dr. Katie Sullivan’s work and the work of other Walt Disney Company scientists prove that the work and research conducted on animals living in Disney Parks are detrimental to the scientific community.

About Isabella Reimer

Isabella Reimer grew up visiting Walt Disney World and relocated to Central Florida to be even closer to The Most Magical Place on Earth. She earned her Bachelor’s from Florida State University, where she studied Creative Writing and Women’s Studies. Her biggest hobby is bonding with the ikran at Avatar Flight of Passage, and her retirement plan includes becoming the 1,000 Happy Haunt of the Haunted Mansion.