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My journey to a dream job

Hello everyone! Courtney here for another Keeper Story. I am currently a Primate Keeper I specifically working with the western lowland gorillas, and today I wanted to share with you a little bit about what it takes to work at an accredited zoo.

One of the most popular, and one of my favorite, questions I get asked after almost every Keeper Talk is, “how did you become a zookeeper?” There are a lot of different answers, actually! For me, I went to a four-year university and got my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Animal Science. Some people go to two-year schools and focus completely on zoology. Others have degrees in ecology, biology, anthropology and even environmental sciences. What we do all have in common, though, is that we all spent some time volunteering, participating in unpaid internships, and possibly working in many seasonal positions before landing a full-time position. To be an animal care professional, you often have to be willing to put in the time and effort for free before finding the right place for you to dive into a full-time position.

I spent about four years volunteering here at Zoo Atlanta before getting an internship with the Elephant Team, as well as in our Education Department. It was during my elephant internship that I was offered a seasonal position with the gorillas. I then spent the next six months absorbing information about these great apes and helping the team as much as possible. Soon enough, I was offered a full-time position, and I am very grateful for that! But the journey doesn’t stop here; more doors open the further into the career you go.

Learning and growing is never-ending! This past April I accepted an offer to pursue my Master’s degree in Biology at Miami University of Ohio with an organization called Project Dragonfly. This organization is an education reform initiative that aims to provide community-based and inquiry-driven education on many different conservation and environmental issues. So far it has been a dream come true to be getting my Master’s with this program.

I would have only been able to do this with the help of my previous experiences at Zoo Atlanta, along with the mentorship I have received here. With this new education, I hope to use the knowledge I gain to provide you guys with more important information and ways you can make a difference in our environments, locally and globally! As Jane Goodall has said, “Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved.” So as always, be on the lookout for ways to you can help.

Thank you for taking your time to read my Keeper Story. See you next time.
Courtney M.
Keeper I, Primates

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl