Discovering a New Path

Zoo Internquest is a seven week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs, and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

During my second session of the Zoo InternQuest program, I was given the opportunity to learn about the San Diego Zoo’s Education Department from one of their own: Colleen Ferguson. Within the two hours I spent with Ms. Ferguson, I got to learn about the Education Department’s work both locally and globally, as well as getting to meet one of the Zoo’s official animal ambassadors. Throughout her presentation, Ms. Ferguson stressed the importance of the role the Education Department plays in the Zoo’s conservation of endangered species and the environment.

The picture to the left features a male and female saiga antelope. These antelope are a critically endangered species that lie at the core of one of the Zoo’s conservation partnerships in Central Asia. This partnership is one of many around the world, and was the focus of Ms. Ferguson’s presentation. Ms. Ferguson is working closely with the Steppe Wildlife Club, an organization local to parts of Central Asia, including Uzbekistan. Ms. Ferguson has helped by giving learning materials and teaching guides, which are used to educate kids about the saiga and the factors that threaten them. Ms. Ferguson showed us a video of some of the local school children as they cheered and screamed in anticipation of a puppet show specifically about these animals. Ms. Ferguson goes beyond just educating the public on well known species and conservation threats. Instead, she works to familiarize the public, especially kids, with species that are not as well known, as a means to raise awareness and cultivate a culture of care. This influence wasn’t more obvious to me than during what happened after her powerpoint presentation.

After Ms. Ferguson’s presentation, we went outside to the Zoo’s Children Zoo to meet a three-banded armadillo named Bola. When I first saw Ms. Ferguson holding Bola, I let out a gasp of sheer excitement. For at least the first five minutes of the presentation,  I was smiling ear to ear. Three-banded armadillos were already one of my favorite animals, but this was my first time ever getting to see one, nonetheless interact with one, in real life. Even more so, only after what was barely 30 minutes of getting to watch and pet Bola, she had earned her spot in my heart. For me, this special interaction helped to solidify the important role the Zoo’s Education Department plays in conservation. Bola is one of several of the Zoo’s animal ambassadors, and I can only imagine the impact that they have on each and every kid and adult that meets them. People in the Education Department, like Ms. Ferguson, spread awareness for these animals, and thus spread a desire to save them. They educate people about these amazing animals as well as what is threatening them. By inspiring a love and compassion for animals in children and adults locally and globally, Ms. Ferguson and her coworkers work to ensure a future where animals can continue to survive and flourish.

Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian, specifically in the field of conservation. However, this dream has recently begun to conflict with a desire to be a teacher, working with people and helping them grow and develop. However, this experience has given me the solution I was looking for all along. Jobs such as the one Ms. Ferguson has, working with both people and animals, while promoting conservation is now what I realize I want to pursue. Zoo InternQuest has showed me this new path, and it is the path I plan to take as I head on into my future.

Amber, Conservation Team
Week One, Winter Session 2018

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