Understanding the Education in Conservation

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Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s Website!

tori_w1_picOne extremely important topic our generation encounters is conservation, but what does conservation actually mean? Conservation is the effort to save and keep other species. How do scientists determine which species are of concern? How does the general public learn about species of concern and how to help? 

Welcome to a day in the life of Maggie Reinbold, Associate Director for Conservation Education at San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. It is her job to answer questions just like this every day. When a species becomes endangered, there are many aspects to consider in order to start the saving process. Aspects like habitat preservation, boosting numbers in managed care facilities, educating the public, and reviewing the genetic diversity of remaining numbers. Ms. Reinbold’s role in this process is education.

Ms. Reinbold told us the story about the critically endangered species, the California condor. In order to save this beautiful species, all twenty-two remaining California condors on the planet were transferred into captivity, and a massive breeding process began in 1987. Since they only lay one egg about every two years, their numbers have grown slowly. However, breeding isn’t as easy as it seems. Knowing a species’ genetics plays a huge role in bringing them back from near extinction. Ms. Reinbold taught us that the best two to pair up are not the ones that look the cutest, but the ones with the DNA that is least similar.

Though Mrs. Reinbold is an expert in her field now and seems like the perfect person to be an educator about conservation because she knows so much about a variety of species, her path didn’t lead her straight to this position. Obtaining a masters degree in evolution biology at San Diego State University, Ms. Reinbold knew she had a love for science. However, working at the Natural History Museum made her realize that she also had a passion for education. She landed a job working for the Institute for Conservation Research in the Genetic Division so the science part of the equation was fulfilled, but what about her love for education? She received the best of both worlds when transferred to the Education Division and starting working to spread the word of conservation education. She now works with teachers, and students of all ages. However, this career isn’t fun and games all of the time. As an educator, sometimes it’s difficult to get a message across because people don’t see the bigger picture. Sometimes they don’t realize that humans benefit from the variety of life on this planet, and that we wouldn’t be able to survive without other species. Changing someone’s mind isn’t the easiest thing to do. Despite these challenges, Ms. Reinbold loves her job. She has a passion for teaching about science to people of all ages, and making a difference.

Ms. Reinbold taught us that educating others about conservation and extinction is one of the most fulfilling careers one could have because she is the bridge between the technical world of science and the public. She can translate a complicated process that may seem impossible into a story that inspires others to help and do their part. In this career, not one day is like the other, and it produces captivating stories about effort and success. It is because of people like Ms. Reinbold that species are being saved from the endangered list.

Tori, Careers Team
Week One, Winter Session 2014