Bucknell distance runner Colleen Buckley ’19 is approaching a future career with animals as fast as she does the finish line at her track & field and cross-country meets.

Since childhood, Buckley has dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. This made Bucknell and its distinctive Animal Behavior Program an attractive choice.

“At a lot of schools you can only take biology, but I wanted something that would get me in with animals in my undergrad,” says Buckley, of River Edge, N.J.

Buckley splits her time between running and working hands-on with animals as a research assistant at the primate lab. She also studies the impulsivity of dogs belonging to Lewisburg residents and Bucknell professors for her Research Methods in Learning course.

Buckley has earned seven career All-Patriot League citations, two All-East designations and has been voted to the Academic All-Patriot League Team. In April 2017, she broke the school record in the 5,000 meters with a time of 16:29.83 that was eclipsed this spring by Christine Bendzinski ’18. She’s the fastest in school history in the 10K outdoors and second-fastest in the 5K outdoors and 3K and 5K indoors.

Ever since qualifying for the NCAA East Regional last year, Buckley has been striving to achieve a higher rank at more competitive events. This year she ran the 5K, 3K and mile races at the two-day Patriot League Indoor Championships. She found the experience “very intimidating,” since she normally just competes in one event. Buckley was named Athlete of the Meet, something she never envisioned after her first year at Bucknell, when she faced an array of physical challenges.

Pneumonia early in her first season kept Buckley off the track for many weeks, after which she continued to face residual lung issues. Buckley says she has also struggled with her iron levels throughout her college career, testing different supplements and diets to aid her performance.

Buckley’s professional ambitions are as lofty as her ambitions on the track. “I’ve always wanted to be a vet, but since I’ve been here I’ve been exposed to the research side of animal behavior and animal cognition,” Buckley says. “I’ve started to explore more paths that aren’t medical school, although that’s definitely still on the table.”

For the past two summers Buckley has been a zookeeper and a vet tech at the Bergen County (N.J.) Zoological Park, where she’s worked with bison, elk, mountain lions and other mammals. Her dream is to one day have a job that allows her to travel abroad and see unfamiliar animals and wildlife.