The Next Generation
Our family has had the privilege of knowing Lauren Lockwood for many years, since we moved to the area and she was just a blonde little girl with four busy little brothers. She came to nature classes at the museum where I worked as an educator...and that is how I got to know her family. And boy, to know her is to admire her. She has grown into an incredible adult who is helping to preserve nature and wildlife for the next generation. Now you can get to know her, too! Here's a little peek into her life...in her own words:
How long have you been working at the zoo? What are your main responsibilities?
I have worked at the zoo for four years in December. One year in the education department, and I have worked the other three years on grounds. I am a swing keeper, so I am trained to work in all the areas of the zoo besides the Asia area. I help out in whatever area is short staffed that day, so I get to work with a lot of different animals. Daily responsibilities include: feeding animals, cleaning their buildings and outside enclosures, assisting in any routine physicals or medical procedures as needed, and enclosure upkeep (mowing, weedwacking, cleaning pools, mulching, exhibit maintenance, re-perching, painting, etc). Additionally I work on exhibit design as needed, so I have experience in concrete work, wood working, welding, use the paint sprayer, building fences, etc.
What educational background do you have?
I graduated from OTC with an Associate of Arts, and I am currently working on my bachelors degree in Wildlife Conservation and Management. I have 2 semesters to go! I work full time and go to school part time on my days off during the school year.
What is your favorite part of your job?
In addition to my daily routine, one to two times a week I train with the giraffes. Working with them in any capacity is the favorite part of my job. I am involved with the majority of their care including: training, tours with the public, keeper chats, regulating breeding activity and births, routine physicals and overall health, enrichment, and transport. I am the primary trainer over Mili, a five-year-old female, and she is trained to station to a target, back up, stand for a voluntary blood draw, and present her hooves for inspection and preventative care. I love working with her and also giving tours to the public, because it is very special for people to get such up close encounters with giraffes.
How would you say homeschooling has helped you in your chosen career?
I started my animal care path at Wonders of Wildlife when I was 12 years old, and volunteered for 7 years and obtained nearly 2,000 hours of volunteer service. Since I was homeschooled I was able to volunteer during the week while other kids had to wait for Christmas or Summer break to volunteer. That experience taught me time management and responsibility since I had to juggle school, sports, and volunteering. Being home, my parents were able to instill in me the important of a relationship with Jesus, respect for authority and others, and hard work. All of these traits helped get me where I am today.
In your job, what opportunities do you have to educate the next generation of conservationists? What do you want kids to know about nature and wildlife?
During the summer I do keeper talks at the giraffe yard, which is a major way I am able to educate both kids and adults about the importance of conservation. There are tons of school groups in the summer and many times they plan their trips so they can hear the different keeper talks that day. It is a super fun way for people to get a personal experience rather than just looking at the animal. My hope is always that these experiences will help fuel a passion for animals and conservation in the next generation.
We have a huge impact on the world around us. By supporting zoos you are not only helping them last for generations to come but you are also helping animals in the wild. Many zoos and aquariums make donations from admissions, behind the scenes tours, and fundraisers to conservation efforts around the world. Additionally you can protect habitats and animals in the areas where you live. Throwing your trash in garbage cans and not littering, recycling whenever you can, and leaving nature as good as when you got there are all ways you can help. Even just small steps can make a difference!
Did you spend a lot of time outdoors or studying nature as a child? How do you think that affected your love for animals and nature?
My mom took me to the zoo, the nature center, wonders of wildlife and various parks all the time growing up. This really encouraged my love and passion for animals and the outdoors. Going to the zoo often especially made me want to be a zookeeper.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you spend a lot of time outdoors?
I love being outdoors. Josiah and I take our dog Alex on hikes especially in the summer when I don’t have school. We like going places where there is rock-climbing. I really enjoy jet-skiing at the lake and I love exploring creeks and catching crayfish. (I am sooooo competitive whenI'm crayfish catching. I will stay however long it takes to catch more than other people). I am also very artistic and enjoy sketching and painting with watercolor in my spare time.