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Celebrating LGBTQIA+ conservationists

Happy Pride Month! As a wildlife conservation organization, we here at Zoo Atlanta are in constant awe of the natural world’s incredible diversity. Our Earth benefits immensely from the unique attributes not just of different species, but of each individual. It takes all types to form the complex webs that not only maintain ecosystems, but allow them to thrive. 

Humans are no exception, and the full rainbow of human sexual and gender identity is one way our species is able to expand our perspectives and possibilities. This applies to any field, but LGBTQIA+ perspectives are vital in wildlife and conservation sciences, which not only seek methods for preserving the natural world, but ask fundamental questions about the behaviors and social structures found across the animal kingdom. It’s a field that demands we deconstruct our often heteronormative human biases to understand how we can best protect the animals and ecosystems that form the foundation of our work.  

It’s more important than ever to celebrate these contributions, so we’re excited to highlight five LGBTQIA+ scientists working hard to push global conservation efforts forward. We hope you’ll read more about their incredible work, this month and beyond! 

Susan Cheyne (She/Her) 
A graduate of Edinburgh and Cambridge Universities, Dr. Cheyne currently serves as co-director of the Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) and vice-chair of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group Section on Small Apes, as well as an associate lecturer on primate conservation and management at Oxford Brookes University. Dr. Cheyne is an advisor on gibbon rehabilitation and reintroduction in Asia, and since 2012 has led a clouded leopard survey across all four provinces of the Indonesian island of Borneo. She is also a co-founder and Director for BRINCC (Barito River Initiative for Nature Conservation and Communities), which focuses on conservation research in the central highlands of Borneo. Dr. Cheyne’s work benefits a range of imperiled species in Indonesia, including gibbons, clouded leopards, orangutans, flying foxes, and more. 

David Mizejewski (He/Him) 
Mid-aughts fans of Animal Planet may recognize naturalist David Mizejewski from his show Backyard Habitat, a program that demonstrated how to transform yards and gardens into thriving habitats for birds and other local wildlife. Since then, Mizejewski has been a regular figure on NatGeo WILD, as well as authoring his book Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife. He has sat on advisory groups for the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign and the Biodiversity Council, and was included in the 2005 Out 100 list. 

Wyn Wiley / Pattie Gonia (Wyn: He/They, Pattie: She/They) 
Wyn Wiley is better known as Pattie Gonia, acclaimed drag queen, environmentalist, and advocate for inclusivity and diversity in the outdoors. Pattie Gonia rose to fame in 2018 for her videos conquering mountaintops in full drag (including 6-inch heels), and has since gone on to found Outdoorist Oath, an organization that provides resources and tools to support the planet and inclusion. Pattie views drag as an essential component to her activism, which centers on climate change awareness, sustainability, and wildlife preservation, as well as ensuring that people of all persuasions feel welcomed in that work.  

Dan O’Neill (He/Him) 
Dan O’Neill is a field biologist and wildlife filmmaker specializing in remote and challenging environments. In 2023, O’Neill hosted Giants, a five-part series following some of the largest species to inhabit planet, such as African elephants, giant crocodiles, and great white sharks. The show gained special significance as the first time an openly LGBTQIA+ wildlife presenter hosted a program for a major network. Currently, O’Neill works as an ambassador for the Snow Leopard Trust, tracking the famously elusive endangered species across the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia to learn more about their hunting behavior, social dynamics, and territorial range. 

Izzy Bishop (She/They) 
Izzy Bishop is a freshwater conservationist exploring interactions between environmental and social systems on the Earth’s freshwater resources. Bishop’s work has taken them across the globe, with research based in northern California, the Hebrides archipelago in Scotland, Zambia, and Tanzania. Since 2019, Bishop has led the citizen science project FreshWater Watch, which trains communities around the world to measure and monitor the health of their rivers, lakes, streams, ponds and wetlands with the goal of restoring freshwater resources. 

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