During the summer, the Houston Zoo becomes a sea of various colored T-shirts that make up almost every color of the rainbow. The sea of shirts not only consists of guests from different camps and programs, but also the Zoo’s very own summer work programs. With programs for a variety of ages, the Zoo provides teens and young adults with the opportunity to gain experience in almost all aspects of the Houston Zoo.
Zoo Crew Teens
The youngest conservation enthusiasts can be seen sporting the iconic bright green Zoo Crew T-shirt. Between the ages of 13-17, Zoo Crew members gain experience from zookeepers, groundskeepers, as well as the marketing department throughout the five-week-long program. When they are not hands-on learning, Zoo Crew members participate in interactive activities with the guests, as well as acting as Camp Zoofari mentors. This summer, Zoo Crew participated in Instagram Takeovers, where they gave the Zoo’s followers an insight into their days at the Zoo. These Instagram posts have even highlighted a few zookeepers who were once members of Zoo Crew. This helps show the passion these teens have for the wildlife around them.
Animal Care Interns
Ever wonder who the young adults in purple shirts are? Purple shirts are a distinct sign of the animal care interns. Currently enrolled in college, these interns are 18 and older and take part in extensive training programs with a specific animal department. In addition to engaging in hands-on animal care, they are given the opportunity to network further and educate themselves through various lectures set up specifically for them! At the end of the summer, the young adults compose and present educational presentations that shows what they have learned throughout the program.
Zoo guests may also notice a group of four impressive veterinary interns that are part of the veterinary student conservation research internship program. This exclusive program allows veterinary students to learn alongside the incredible vet team here at the Houston Zoo. Each year the veterinary students spend their summer working on projects to help various species that call the Zoo home. This year, these projects include research towards preventing both a fungal infection and abnormal limb rotation found within the colony of Attwater’s prairie chickens, heart disease found in Houston toads, as well as developing easier ways to test EEHV, a potentially fatal virus found in young Asian elephants. The Zoo will serve these impressive young adults with a solid platform as they continue in their veterinary career. According to intern Connor Jacobson, he plans to continue to work with amphibians. “I could definitely see myself working with amphibians in the future. They are the most endangered animals with 40% threatened with extinction,” he said.
Collegiate Conservation Program
If they are lucky, guests might spot a few dark green T-shirts that indicate one of the 10 college sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the Collegiate Conservation Program sponsored by ExxonMobil. This is considered a rare sighting, since these students spend 75% of their 10-week program off site at regional conservation partners in the Houston area. The other 25% of the program is spent in conservation education programs, as well as working on a regional conservation education project that is proposed at the end of the 10 weeks. “I came into this program wanting to do one thing. Now I want to do a million things.” Beka Deturo said, regarding what she has learned about the field of conservation during her summer at the Zoo.
This year, the students are proposing a project revolving around plastic use. At the beginning of the summer, the team pledged to individually give up a single-use plastic item. By the end of their summer, they will have conserved more plastic than initially anticipated. In fact, the group has saved more than 2,000 plastic water bottles between the 10 of them alone. After making their own pledges, the team went out to survey guests on plastic reduction. With this data, they were able to develop a conservation plan that would benefit the soon-to-come Galapagos habitat, a Zoo expansion scheduled to open in 2022.
Although some programs have been around for years, the Zoo is always looking for ways to reach more people in the community. In fact, for the first time ever, this summer, the Zoo has teamed up with Workforce Solutions to hire five students, ages 16-22, enrolled with vocational rehabilitation services. These employees serve in the admissions department throughout the summer and wear the official navy “See Them. Save Them.” T-shirt that promotes the Zoo’s mission. Starting early June and ending August 31, this program gives the students the opportunity to gain extensive work experience.
It is through these programs that the Houston Zoo works towards creating the next generation of conservationists. These interactive programs provide individuals with vast knowledge and experience in saving the wildlife in their everyday lives, something that they will take with them even after the summer ends. Learn more about the Zoo’s summer programs today.