I have been working at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in different education roles since 2017. Thanks to Como Friends support of my Conservation Champions project, I am starting a new adventure with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center!
In my time at Como, I’m very familiar doing things like…
…teaching a program while holding a snake…
…or doing evaluations like surveys (with my new haircut).
I’ve always wanted to do more to contribute to conservation efforts and get my “hands dirty” in the field in addition to teaching about it. I don’t have any experience caring for animals (I just hold them briefly as an educator), I didn’t take any classes in college in ecology topics (I was an education major), and I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever had. Many of my colleagues have participated in Conservation Champions projects related to the species they care for here at Como, but they felt out of my depth.
I’ve never trained or cared for sloths like Zookeeper Liz…
…or penguins like Zookeeper Kelley.
So, I spent a lot of time on the internet looking for different organizations and opportunities that would allow someone like me, with no previous experience, to comfortably participate in hands on conservation work right here in Minnesota. As an alumna of the University of Minnesota, I looked closely at opportunities through their partners and that’s where I got lucky!
I stumbled upon the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center! They have a program called AIS Detectors (Aquatic Invasive Species Detectors). Anyone over 18 is encouraged to participate in the program which includes a registration fee, online training, an in-person training, and a minimum of 25 volunteer hours a year. This was exactly what I was looking for! I proposed participating in this volunteer program as my Conservation Champions project and was selected to be funded by Como Friends!
For the next few months, I am going to be transforming from an educator to an AIS Detector and sharing the experience with you all! If you’re like me and always wanted to be more involved in conservation efforts but aren’t sure how, tune in to my monthly updates to learn what it’s really like! Next month I will be sharing about the online and in-person training experience.
To learn more about this volunteer program, follow the link to watch their informational video. I’m excited get started and help our beautiful lakes!
– Alexa, Learning Experiences Specialist