IF/THEN®: This is What a Scientist Looks Like
On your next Zoo visit, look for the small pavilion next to the Museum of Living Art (MOLA) and across from Waterfowl Walk. We invite you to take a walk through the rotunda and discover the world of STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math) that await you at the Zoo. The women featured in this space are not only making strides in their STEM careers but also making major contributions to animal-related fields including conservation, behavior science, veterinary science, animal nutrition and more. Take a look and you just might see yourself here in the future!
If she can see it … then she can be it!
This pavilion is generously funded in part by a grant from the Lyda Hill Philanthropies’ IF/THEN® Fund at Texas Women’s Foundation and Meta Inc.
My absolute favorite part of my job is building a relationship of trust with the animals through training and behavioral husbandry. It makes me so happy when an animal is able to participate and help facilitate their own veterinary care and daily wellbeing through learned behaviors.
Find what makes you happy. There are so many types of work, or niches, within each field that need a champion. Find what you are good at by trying different paths. Once you find your path, do everything you can to get experience: volunteer, intern, study, contribute, prove your dedication. Doors will open to those who do the work.
My favorite part of my job has remained the same throughout each position: to remain challenged to learn more, see more and do more to support wildlife and conservation. I have been fortunate for the last 17 years to be a productive part of the Fort Worth Zoo team that enhances the lives of so many animals daily.
My most favorite part of my job is being in the field and getting to see a rare or endangered species. Even more special is observing a rare behavior, especially when I can get it on camera. One of my most cherished memories was the first time we released Anegada rock iguanas back to the wild after they had grown big enough in the headstart facility.
I had absolutely no idea I would end up where I am today. I saw a need and had a passion, so I went for it. My best advice? Never, ever give up!
I love the variety of my career, both in terms of the animals I treat and the types of cases I see. I get to work with all kinds of terrestrial and aquatic animals: invertebrates, fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals. I handle all types of medical cases including preventative health exams, ophthalmology cases, dermatology cases, surgical cases, dentistry, cardiology, radiology, etc. No day is ever the same!
Nutritional care is vital to an animal's overall health. The Fort Worth Zoo has a dedicated team made up of zoological dietitians, nutritionists, quality control technicians – to name a few – and is one of only four zoos in North America to house a dedicated nutrition lab. Learn more about the wild world of animal nutrition and how it contributes to the nearly 7,000 Zoo residents' wellness.
As a primate keeper, I most enjoy interacting and socializing with the animals every day, getting to know their individual personalities and quirks. The fondest memory I have to date is Ramses, our oldest silverback gorilla, grumbling happily as I sang a song to him. It showed that we were bonding, and that he truly enjoyed my company.
There are so many possibilities to work in STEM! There are tons of careers that you probably haven’t even heard of, so don’t let anyone tell you that you can only do this or that. In the zoo industry alone there are zookeepers, veterinarians, nutritionists, educators, rehabbers, biologists and more. The same goes for just about every industry in STEM, find what you like and explore all of the options!
The Zoo's full-service, on-grounds veterinary hospital, The Burnett Animal Health and Science Center, opened in 1998 and greatly elevates the level of care, treating sick and injured animals, running diagnostics and contributing to research all take place on a daily basis – and there's even more to it! See what goes into caring for nearly 7,000 animals here at the Zoo.
If you’re a girl who is even remotely interested in computer science or coding or solving big problems, I want you to know what a fun and attainable job it is. We need more young girls to enter this field. You have great ideas that can solve the biggest challenges our world is facing.
I come to work every day to advance our unifying mission, “to spark compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world.” I oversee research programs in the Great Lakes and Bahamas with over 15 Ph. D and medical veterinary staff conducting research and medical care to help keep our blue planet blue.
Just like most young kids, I caught fossil fever. That obsession with dinosaurs and prehistoric life only grew when I began volunteering at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at 12 years old. Today, I work as a fossil preparator at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, in my dream career. Not only do I get to prepare fossils from Alaska and be an integral part in the active research, I show off my job to the public daily in the visible fossil lab.
I got the best of both country life and city living! I grew up fishing and hunting, but working with the Student Conservation Association in high school gave me the confidence I needed to truly jumpstart my STEM career. Today, I work to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, including Indigenous heritage sites and marshes impacted by Deepwater Horizon, through projects that restore native vegetation and oyster reef ecosystems.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten that I really internalized is that there are no rules. And for me, I applied that message to my career path. I, for a long time, struggled with “How do I get to a certain place?” and “What choices do I need to make?” and “Do I need to always take a traditional route?” And realizing that there really are no rules to this thing called life, and in particular, non-traditional careers, has really helped me.
I went to school to become a wildlife biologist never believing that I would actually be able to research bears. But then I found myself actually crawling into bear dens and radio tagging bears in the summertime, and I spent about 10 years doing that. I’m located in Montana – most jobs in the wildlife profession, if you’re fortunate to be out in the field like I am, are based in places where conservation work happens, and those our wildest areas.
Since I was a child, my dream had been to be a scientist and a dancer, but I learned to hide my dream of dancing because my teachers and family didn’t support it. Thankfully, my advisor championed me, saying that art feeds scientific creativity. He was right!