Millbrook Students & the AZA: How to Engage Students in Conservation

Charlotte Golden ’20 and Jake Lockwood ’20, head student curators at Millbrook’s Trevor Zoo, traveled with Trevor Zoo staff to the annual Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Conference in New Orleans this fall. This is the third year running that Millbrook students have been the only students in attendance at this well-attended conference. The AZA’s goals of conservation and education align neatly with those of the AZA-accredited Trevor Zoo, and Millbrook’s curators brought a youthful perspective crucial to the continued relevance of the AZA.
The Trevor Zoo first achieved AZA accreditation in 1989 and has since maintained best practices in animal welfare, education, and conservation to maintain accreditation. Of the over 200 accredited zoos nationwide, Trevor operates with the smallest budget. Joined by Zoo Director Alan Tousignant and Director of Programs Jessica Bennett, Golden and Lockwood chose seminars that emphasized conservation along with outreach and awareness. The zoo relies on the nearly 40,000 yearly visitors for a portion of funding, so it is crucial that the zoo continues to develop programs that attract visitors.
“The AZA conference opens students’ eyes to the wider world and affirms that our small zoo is part of a much larger effort,” said Tousignant. With member zoos nationwide, each zoo is able to share a wide spectrum of conservation goals. The ongoing work of the Trevor Zoo also becomes part of the larger body of research and information.
At a session focused on outreach, Lockwood spoke up in front of 50 or so zoo professionals about ways to engage young people in conservation. Lockwood spoke about how the digital world can keep the natural world at a distance, and how important it is to expose young people to the real and visceral aspects of conservation. His own experience as a zooey at Millbrook gave weight to his words and recommendations.
By involving students in the AZA, the Trevor Zoo is fostering the next generation of conservationists. Golden and Lockwood, both four-year seniors, have been involved with the zoo since their IIIrd form year, and now, as head curators working to instill a conservation ethic in nearly 100 other student zooeys, Lockwood and Golden continually help to craft a conservation culture. They have gone even further by sharing with others, including AZA zoo directors, their own beliefs in and experience in important conservation work.
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