STEM Careers at Zoo Atlanta
While on the surface it may seem like biology would be the only background you need to work at a zoo, you may be surprised to learn that diverse careers across multiple disciplines are represented. When it comes to STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, Zoo Atlanta has it all, and in some very interesting roles. Most importantly, each discipline goes hand-in-hand and relies upon each other. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Animal Care Team: The main responsibility of an animal care professional is to ensure the well-being of the animals. From tree frogs to tigers and vultures to elephants, these folks must have a firm understanding of the science or biology of the species they care for. Where is the species from? Is it an herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, insectivore, or frugivore? What are its natural behaviors and adaptations to survive? Using what they know about the species, the Animal Care Team puts their creative abilities and engineering skills to work to design enrichment opportunities for the animals. These opportunities can be as simple as hiding food around the habitat or as elaborate as PVC creations that encourage the animals to forage in new and different ways. And with engineering comes math – measure, cut, and design. But how much food does that animal receive? A panda can eat up to 40 pounds of bamboo a day, whereas a binturong might only receive 116 grams of grapes twice a week as part of his balanced diet. In an animal care professional’s day-to-day routine, math is a must. When you put together Science, Engineering and Math, you might wonder how technology fits in. One of the most important things the Animal Care Team does is monitor their individual animals to ensure they are eating well and behaving normally. This is done in several ways, from ethograms to video monitoring and data collection, all using a variety of technologies that allow for real-time observations and/or real-time sharing of data with other team members. Next time you see an animal care professional at the Zoo, now you will have a better understanding of how they use STEM to care for species.
Graphic Designer: As you walk around Zoo Atlanta, have you ever wondered about the habitat signage or the placement of a window at an animal habitat? Have you ever noticed how different areas of the Zoo, such as the African Savanna, have a similar theme and feel? While it may seem like art is at play for this role, STEM is also very relevant. When designing the all-new African Savanna, the Graphics Team played an integral role in imagining the design and layout of the space, from working with engineers to lay out the habitats, to deciding where signage should be placed, to deciding how to depict the information on those signs. As with the Animal Care Teams, knowing the science of the animals also translates to what and how to share that information with the public and how to lay out the information so the key facts are showcased. Signs are also designed and engineered for the best placement at a habitat, so the information is accessible and eye-catching. If that’s not enough, each sign comes with its own distinct measurements – yep, math. And all of this cannot be done without the technology to create and design. And you thought it was just art …
Next time you are at the Zoo, look around and see if you can spot STEM in action. You might just see STEM in ways you have never thought of before. To hear different perspectives around the Zoo, visit our Keeper Stories and get an insider’s look at caring for diverse species from around the globe.