Being born and raised in Tampa I was a “Busch baby”. I grew up visiting Busch Gardens and Sea World. Spending so much time at these parks inspired me to want to save our natural world. I feared that my hesitation to major in science would put an end to my ability to actually DO anything related to animals.
Luckily, I was able to secure a job as a Zoological Aide on the education team. This was my key to open doors I did not even realize existed. I spent several years as an educator there beginning in 2006. I was responsible for working with a team to develop and present a variety of engaging educational programs and experiences.We served a diverse audience with programs geared toward preschoolers all the way up to adult and educator only events.
Most of our informal experiences were geared toward the general public and focused on animal species that lived within particular habitats, introducing them to the species that lived there and what role they played in their ecosystem. We also discussed conservation concerns and had a strong focus on empowering our guests with the knowledge and skills to be active in protecting their home environments, wherever they were visiting from.
During my work there, I confidently handled a variety of animal ambassador species (including birds, mammals, invertebrates, and reptiles), during interactions that ranged from one-on-one encounters to groups of over fifty guests. I led tours through the different zoological areas, focusing on how the different ecosystems balanced the needs of the resident species, and striving to meet each guest at their level of experience and understanding.
In summer of 2011 I moved to El Paso, Texas which put a sad end (I thought) to this chapter. Since moving back to Tampa in 2014 however, I have been able to return as a seasonal educator for six months each year.