Zoo Atlanta’s University Partnerships
By now, you probably know how fundamental research is to Zoo Atlanta’s mission. Research helps us better understand and provide stewardship for the animals in our care, and it provides us with valuable insights that enable us to protect their counterparts in the wild. However, you might not know that the Zoo’s research practices include partnerships with local universities such as Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Emory, Agnes Scott, Kennesaw State, and University of North Georgia. This is reflected in the structure of our research program, which involves student projects, as well as adjunct faculty positions for Zoo research staff at selected universities.
Why does this matter? First off, community involvement is central at Zoo Atlanta, and these partnerships allow important cultural institutions to connect in ways that provide greater opportunities and benefits for those living, working, and, of course, studying in the area. University courses and research projects also act as powerful recruiting tools, attracting innovative people into zoo careers they might not have considered otherwise. That means more gifted thinkers dedicating their talents and careers to science, animal care, and conservation!
Relatedly, formal zoo-university partnerships expand the scope of what we can accomplish through education. Many zoos focus primarily on K-12 programming and other guest-tailored education. These programs are certainly effective, but limited to what can be understood by younger age groups, or processed in short periods of time. University-level education expands the scope of can be learned at zoos, providing deep insights in conservation, biology, and veterinary-related fields not possible through traditional zoo programming.
Participating university students have the opportunity to engage first-hand in unique research projects, which can lead to peer-reviewed publications that shape ongoing scientific dialogue. Partnering with zoos is particularly beneficial for graduate students, providing an opportunity to conduct upper-level research not possible in traditional environments (for example, what university has elephants?) Graduate students, in turn, bring their time, drive to learn, and additional funding to the partnership. These arrangements are time-intensive for both participating students and overseeing Zoo staff, but bring an intellectual stimulation and momentum that keeps zoos in the forefront of relevant fields.
In case you can’t tell, Zoo Atlanta is very proud of our university partnerships, and excited to share more about what all they entail. Check back over the coming weeks for inside looks at publications, student stories, and more!