From July 19-25, zoos all over the U.S. are celebrating National Zoo Keeper Week. Here at the Houston Zoo, we are honored and privileged to have such amazing professionals on our team. We got a chance to sit down with a few of our keepers and hear their stories. Check back all week to see new keeper profiles during this great week celebrating zookeepers!
Tyler W. Parker – Houston Toad SSP Coordinator/Studbook Keeper; Husbandry Keeper
I’m originally from the Midwest. I went to Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where I received a Bachelor’s in Zoology. I knew from elementary school that I wanted to be a zoo keeper.
Some of my daily responsibilities are: cleaning, maintaining water quality, feeding toads, making new enclosures (tanks) for toads, breeding invertebrates for toad food, and applying medication to toads when necessary.
As a Species Survival Plan Coordinator (SSP)/Studbook keeper, I am in charge of helping coordinate and set up the inter-institutional breeding efforts for each breeding season, arranging transfers and breeding loans to all involved programs for future breeding endeavors, managing the genetic diversity for the Captive Assurance Colonies at all participating institutions. Throughout the breeding season, we also participate in facilitating egg releases with our partners, USFWS, TPWD, and Texas State University.
The most enjoyable part of my job is working with so many talented people and being able to see a difference we are making in helping to recover a critically endangered species only found in this area.
If you want to do this job, like anything, try and become a Jack of all trades. Don’t just limit yourself to working with one type or group of animals. Try and learn a little about everything. You’ll need to know a little about construction, water chemistry, biology, local policy and administration (wildlife law). Also, you’ll need to be willing and able to work well with others as a team and understand you are all working toward the same goals.