Erin (left) during a recent butterfly program. Photo by Tina Crandall-Gommel
Hello! My name is Erin and I am a third-year student at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks. I study Wildlife Science and this is my seventh summer at the Seneca Park Zoo. When I tell people that I have been at the Zoo for seven years, they tend to look at me weird. I can’t say I blame them, seeing as I’m only 20. Seven years at one place for someone my age is sort of strange. I wouldn’t trade a second of it, though.
I entered the ZooTeen Program in 2007 spent the next four summers working stations, helping with training, and assisting with other volunteer events like ZooBoo. I made friends each summer and I learned a lot from our stations. The most important thing I learned though wasn’t about tiger conservation or what can and cannot be composted. Most valuable was learning how to talk to people.
As a ZooTeen I learned how to settle debates with my teammates when we disagreed on how a station should be run. I learned how to project my voice and make myself heard when the gibbons started howling in the middle of my wetlands ecosystem talk. I learned how to attract a crowd and keep their attention even amidst the hustle and bustle of the zoo.
As you can imagine, this made presenting projects in class just a little less scary and a little more familiar.
When I graduated from high school in 2011 I was faced with my first summer since 8th grade where I wasn’t a ZooTeen.
As it turns out, volunteering for four years made me a very good candidate when the Zoo’s Education Department had a job opening. I applied, interviewed, and accepted the job as a Birthday Party Host.
My job has grown since then. I now do overnights, scout events, birthdays, and I assist with the Butterfly Beltway Project. All of these events have helped me in thriving at college. I recently completed a mapping project where I analyzed the density of the butterfly garden sites across six counties in New York.
When I first started as a ZooTeen I wasn’t sure of what I specifically wanted to do. Honestly, I am still working out the specifics of what I want to do as a career. And that’s okay.
I was recently accepted into a $10,000 scholarship program that will let me work on a project and report on my findings. I will be able to experience various aspects of the scientific process over a semester long scale. By the end of it I imagine what I want to do will be clearer.
I know I want to do science. I like biology, animals and I love conservation. Four years as a ZooTeen really reinforced that for me!
So, to any ZooTeens reading this, I know the days are hot and sometimes the crowds just don’t pay attention but if you’re passionate don’t be afraid to stick with it. You never know where an opportunity like this will lead you.
- Erin Regan, former ZooTeen and current Zoo Society staff member