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Growing through professional development

Zoo Atlanta is an amazing place to work! One reason (out of a million) is professional development. I started working for Zoo Atlanta almost two years ago and within my first week on the job, my curator came up to me asking if I was going to apply for the professional development grant. That year I didn’t apply as I needed to get my feet on the ground and learn my job before reaching out for professional development funds. However, last year I did apply for professional development through a grant from a very generous donor. I applied to attend the Principles of Program Animal Management (PPAM) course through the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) hosted in St. Louis.

At the time of applying it was a bit last-minute and had no idea what to apply for, so I spoke to my Assistant Curator and was given a few ideas. PPAM’s week-long course was exactly the sort of training needed for my future career goals. To my overwhelming surprise, I was awarded funds from the grant! So last month I was actually able to attend the PPAM course. For five days from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., I and 30 other zoo professionals around the country sat in a classroom learning about topics focused around program animals (program animals are the animals seen during presentations, off-grounds visiting schools and, in some cases, on encounters in the Zoo. Some topics that were discussed included animal health, animal collection planning, animal training, enrichment, working with volunteers and other departments, preparing for inspections from AZA and USDA and many more topics. This was a very intensive class that was jam-packed with information that I have brought back to my curators to help us improve the already amazing care we give our animals. Here at Zoo Atlanta we are very lucky to have supervisors who greatly encourage our growth and to have these amazing opportunities to apply for funding to be used strictly for professional development. I learned a lot and had a great deal of fun too!
Deidre Ousterhout
Keeper II, Program Animals

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