This International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we wanted to introduce you to a few of our Zoo team members and get their insights on their fields. There are so many ways for women and girls to use their science degrees to impact the people and animals around them!
Meet Kristen Gagnon, our Zoo’s Lands of Change Area Supervisor! To read more of our Women in Science stories, check out this link.
Position with Brevard Zoo: Lands of Change Area Supervisor
Education: Bachelor’s of Science in Zoology from the University of Maine
How did you choose your field? I have always been interested in animals and biological sciences! I explored many options while in college – ecology, conservation, animal care, cell/molecular biology. As an animal keeper in a zoo, I get many opportunities that combine my interests. I get to work with incredible animals, teach guests about animals and their habitats, and participate in conservation efforts that help animals in their natural habitats.
Did or do you have any female mentors or role models in your field? If so, how did they shape your career journey? Each person that I work with has something to teach me – whether it is a manager, keeper, intern or volunteer! I have many mentors and role models here at Brevard Zoo that have impacted my career. Michelle Ferguson (Rainforest Revealed supervisor) worked closely with me when I started here and really inspired me to learn all that I could and to take every opportunity to grow. She is a patient and enthusiastic teacher that I still turn to when I need advice.
How would you describe your work at the Zoo? Zookeeping is an exciting career. No two days are the same when you work around animals. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that what we see and do every day is amazing! I might spend my day wading through the Chilean flamingo moat, feeding red kangaroos, and trimming a north Sulawesi babirusa’s tusks, all before lunch time!
What do you enjoy about your job? Animals are what drew me to this field and the connections that we make with the animals in our care are really rewarding. Each of our animals has a story and a personality. Piggy our female babirusa is a great example of how we can use these relationships to give our animals the best care. I worked with our vet team to train her for voluntary ultrasounds, which we used to confirm her last pregnancy. Getting her comfortable for these sessions helped us prepare for the birth of her two piglets.
What are some challenges about your work? The physical labor of cleaning up after our animals is a lot of work, especially in the Florida weather. Rain or shine, everyone still needs to eat!
Caring for so many animals (there are about 180 aviary birds!!) requires a lot of organization and observational skills.
What advice do you have for girls or women who want to work in your field? Open doors and search behind every one. There are so many types of animals and caring for each of them is different. Don’t be afraid to try new things, try many things, and stay curious – you never know when you will get the opportunity to learn something new and exciting!
Brevard Zoo is an independent, not-for-profit organization that receives no recurring government funding for our operating costs. Your generous support enables us to continue to serve our community and continue our vital animal wellness, education and conservation programs.