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Michelle and Zippy

Michelle Ferguson works in Rainforest Revealed with Zippy the blue-crowned parakeet.

In spring 2019, four of our animal care team members were chosen to pilot a new professional development program. Michelle Ferguson, Vanessa Kunz, Micaela McPherson and Nicole Moyer graduated as “senior keepers” last month, ready to usher in a new class of up-and-comers.

The senior keeper program was designed to nurture, empower and retain our animal care professionals through experiential learning. This new level of seniority fosters an additional line of communication between management and keepers. Participants are selected based on their length of employment at the Zoo, recent performance evaluations and demonstrated commitment to the Zoo’s mission.

The class meets about 30 times throughout the 18-month period to discuss a variety of animal wellness and leadership topics, ranging from species sustainability planning to project management and meeting facilitation. These sessions prompt honest, in-depth conversations that promote positive change for staff and animals alike.

Each participant puts their knowledge to work by leading a project of their choice. Ferguson focused on bird management, restructuring the perching in the Lands of Change: Australia and Beyond aviaries; Kunz expanded her hoofcare skills and can now trim giraffe, oryx, camel and goat hooves independently; McPherson studied generational differences in the workplace to better understand how to work with people of all ages; and Moyer developed detailed resources to improve stingray care.

We couldn’t be prouder of our inaugural group of senior keepers, and we look forward to seeing what they and future classes are bound to achieve.