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Collegiate Conservation Program

What is the Collegiate Conservation Program (CCP)?

The Houston Zoo Collegiate Conservation Program is a 10-week internship sponsored by ExxonMobil.  The Houston Zoo is committed to cultivating the next generation of conservation heroes.  Each summer 10 interns are selected to train, learn, and work at the Houston Zoo and regional conservation partners.  For more information, take a look at the internship description below.

2018 CCP Internship Description

Check back in December for the 2019 application!

Take a look at some of the impacts from the 2017 and 2018 CCP interns!
2017 CCP Impact Statements

2018 CCP Impact Statements

Still unsure what this program is all about?  Head to our blog to hear about one of our 2017 interns experiences!

If you have any questions, please contact ccp@houstonzoo.org.


Regional Conservation Partners

Each year CCP partners with over 20 regional conservation organizations to create a well rounded internship.  These organizations are located all over the city and provide interns with a variety of conservation experience through hands on projects and discussions with staff.


Conservation Partner Spotlight: Houston Zoo Sea Lion Team

Five years ago, the Houston Zoo (HZI) sea lion team, with the support and guidance of the conservation department decided to lead an initiative that would help tackle the global issue of monofilament (fishing line) in our waterways, starting with a jetty in Surfside, TX. Five specially designed receptacles were already built and mounted along the jetty.  In the beginning, NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) emptied these receptacles weekly.  The sea lion team would now lead a team of volunteers to the jetty monthly and empty these receptacles, remove trash and recyclables, watch for any distressed local wildlife, and converse with anglers and jetty guests about the zoo’s mission.  Once the monofilament is brought back to HZI another set of volunteers free it from all the debris, wash it, and it is then sent to NOAA, who sends it off to a company that transforms it into kids tackle boxes and aquarium furniture.  The program has grown from four sea lion keepers to leading a group of up to twenty volunteers each month. Almost every zoo department participates in these jetty clean-ups and over the last few years we branched out to taking small organized groups (Zoo Crew, girl scouts, home-school programs and Collegiate Conservation Program interns).

2018 interns at Surfside with HZI staff and volunteers.

Since August 2013 volunteers have collected 306 lbs. of dirty monofilament, 1,643 lbs. of recyclables and 2,952 lbs. of trash and rescued one sea turtle from entanglement! More importantly the positive relationship between zoo volunteers and jetty users has demonstrated a pronounced behavior change; not only do many of them frequently pitch in to help, the receptacles have gone from filled with trash to filled with monofilament.  The team continues to strive to move forward with the hope of opening the Surfside jetty clean-ups to public volunteers.

2018 interns, HZI staff and volunteers sorting monofilament at the jetty clean-up.

Each month we will be spotlighting a different conservation partner that we have worked with in the past.  Interested in working with us next summer?  Contact us at ccp@houstonzoo.org.


What is a typical week like?

Each week of the internship focuses on steps an organization would take in creating a new conservation program.  Take a look at a sample of a week from the 2016 internship.

Outdoor gear for Collegiate Conservation Program supported by

Feedback from CCP Alumni


“The CCP summer was genuinely a life changer for me. I learned so much about how zoos run on every level – from the directors to the graphic arts departments – about the rewards, challenges, and passion that go into working for a non-profit, about finding my place in a team of people in order to create a successful proposal, and I learned a lot about myself.” – Becca, 2013 Intern

“Being involved with CCP gave me a good base of experience in numerous job fields.  Because of the wide range of projects that we were involved in, such as conservation education, land management, and experience interacting with guests on zoo grounds, I feel that I have many possible avenues to pursue later in life that I already have experience in.” – Haley, 2015 Intern 

“CCP is a fantastic stepping stone for students interested in entering the field of conservation. It showed me all the possibilities the field has to offer and introduced me to a variety of new topics and conservation organizations that have ultimately shaped my interests and career path. Aside from being an excellent resume builder, it taught me how to work as part of team and be creative in my approach to environmental topics.” – Sam, 2013 Intern

“CCP took all of my preconceived notions about the field of conservation and spun them around. It opened my eyes to all of the possibilities in conservation, and the importance of it. Everything I choose to do will now have a basis stemming from this internship.” – Mack, 2017 Intern

“This program was an eye-opening experience that shows so many sides to conservation. It allows you to not only become passionate about conservation and the wild but also allows you to make connections with people also in the field and provides resources to you. I loved this program and I made some great friends and learned so much about not only the Houston Zoo but also the entire environmental field as a whole.” – Jamie, 2018 Intern


Alumni Spotlight:  Cassidy Kempf

Cassidy Kempf was a CCP intern during the summer of 2016.  Take a look at her experience in the program and what she is up to now.

What were some of the projects you enjoyed participating in during your CCP summer?
I really liked getting experience with planting and maintenance of habitat restorations. I used a lot of that experience in job interviews I’ve had since then. I would say that those were a little more useful than the big zoo project planning.

How did your time with CCP shape your future/career opportunities?
CCP made me more confident in my choice to focus on habitat restorations. Also, it made me more interested in education. I had never considered being an educator before CCP, and now I think I could try it out.

What are you currently doing to save/protect wildlife?
I work as a natural resources specialist for the Galveston Bay Estuary Program. We give out grants to habitat, education, and water quality projects that benefit Galveston Bay, as well as convene stakeholders for region-wide conservation planning. My job is to track the implementation of our conservation management plan, the Galveston Bay Plan. I also manage some of our grant contracts. A big part of my job is writing and editing technical documents, so I have really been challenging my communications skills. My favorite part about this job is that we work with so many environmental stakeholders in this region and get to be a part of great projects benefiting the watershed.

Describe the Collegiate Conservation Program internship.
CCP is an internship with the Houston Zoo that introduces students to Zoo conservation and local conservation. Interns learn to plan a Zoo conservation project and hear from Zoo staff about how they save wildlife. In addition, interns travel to local conservation organizations and get hands-on conservation experience through service projects. 

Are you a CCP alumni that would like to share your experience? Contact us at ccp@houstonzoo.org.