Volunteers

Children’s Aquarium was catalyst for renowned oceanographer, UTA professor

Pinterest
Dr. Johnson poses for a Fox and Friends video at the Children's Aquarium at Fair Park.

Dr. Johnson poses for a Fox and Friends video at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park.

As a child, young Ashanti Johnson fell in love with marine science, sparked by hours of watching the famed Jacques Cousteau exploring the deep blue world.

Yet as a high school senior in landlocked North Texas, the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park gave her the first taste of what would become a remarkable and inspiring career.

Today, Dr. Johnson is an associate professor of environmental sciences and assistant vice provost for faculty recruitment at the University of Texas of Arlington. But in the summer of 1988, she was a teenager with a passion for the science of the ocean.

A meeting with the director of the Dallas Zoo gave her an opportunity be a youth volunteer.

“He wanted me to work with snakes, and I don’t do snakes,” she recalls.

The Children’s Aquarium was much more to her liking.

“[My family] would spend a lot of time walking through the different museums on the weekend,” she said. “Going to Fair Park was the closest they could get me to marine science.”

Johnson volunteered at the Children’s Aquarium during her senior year in 1988-89. Her work was definitely “not glamorous,” she says: cleaning glass, cutting fish, sweeping and mopping. But her passion never waned.

“Growing up, we were supposed to be productive as we pursued our interests and give back,” she says about the importance of volunteering.

Johnson went on to become the first African-American to receive a marine science degree at Texas A&M University at Galveston. She then earned a Ph.D. in oceanography from Texas A&M.

She’s worked all across the globe as one of the first female African-American chemical oceanographers, inspiring hundreds through her Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth System Science initiative.

Her passion for mentorship was rewarded with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2009.

“One of my biggest pleasures is helping other people achieve their dreams,” Johnson says.

Visiting the Children’s Aquarium, the Zoo and museums as a child was critical to her successful career, she believes. Those successes were recently spotlighted by Fox and Friends for Black History Month.

“Life experiences help children imagine and dream,” she said. “It’s much more impactful than being in front of a computer.”

(Imagine what volunteering could do for your child – or for you! More than 1,000 people volunteer each year at the Dallas Zoo and the Children’s Aquarium. Visit dallaszoo.com for details on how to join us.)

Categories: Volunteers | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dallas Zoo totally owns green living

Pinterest

Being green is a way of life. As a conservation organization, we strive to practice what we preach, not just on Earth Day, but every day. We work tirelessly to combine our daily operations with our conservation mission, and we rally our community to do it with us.

Here’s how we own green living:

Growing food: Our residents eat better than most people. Across our 106-acre park, we’ve planted dozens of organic produce gardens and “browse” gardens filled with woody plants for our herbivores. *No fossil fuels were burned in the making of our animals’ food on grounds. (Reducing carbon footprint? Check.)

IMG_1352 Gorilla B'wenzi CS

Litter picker-uppers:  We clean up our community. We get up early, usually on Saturdays, and we get to work donning gloves and boots. In the past year, our Wild Earth Action Team of more than 100 staffers and volunteers filled 250-plus garbage bags with litter pollution from Cedar Creek and Trinity River’s Elm Fork. And 110 staffers and Zoo supporters pledged to pick up 10 pieces of litter pollution each Tuesday through Reverse Litter’s “10 on Tuesday” campaign. Even our raven does it! This means our network removes 1,100 pieces of litter from the environment each week. *Casually patting ourselves on the back.*

KidsHoldingMetal

Composting like earth warriors: Pretty much all organic matter at the Zoo, including vegetable waste from our animals’ diets, is composted on property and put back into our gardens and landscaping. Vegetable waste is a gold mine in composting – it’s high in nitrogen, natural sugars and carbon. This sought-after “green” component helps us produce the finest quality of compost. We also turned nearly 900 cubic yards of landscape debris into mulch for zoo landscaping in 2014. (Hint: Why our grounds always look so fabulous.)

_MG_5147-Horticulture planting-CB

Recycling fanatics: Last year, we recycled nearly 40 tons of mixed items – about the size of a semi-truck – plus 27.5 tons of scrap metal; 14.4 tons of paperboard; 2 tons of electronics; and down to small items like our zookeepers’ rubber boots, Styrofoam, radio batteries and more. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

IMG_5220 Statler Raven Ten on Tuesday CS

Our white-necked raven Statler even helps pick up litter!

Saving water: Five barrels across the Zoo collect rainfall – up to 9,256 gallons of harvested rainwater. And thanks to Texas weather, they’re full quite often. We use this all-natural water for irrigation and exhibit maintenance. We also plant Texas native species for low-water-use landscapes.

Water conservation AA

Safe haven for pollinators:  Some say North Texas is a pollination desert as our pollinator populations continue to decline. The Dallas Zoo is proud to be recognized as a safe haven for migrating pollinations. Last fall, we rescued 30 milkweed plants from a soon-to-be strip mall construction site in Arlington. These mature plants were successfully transplanted at the Zoo and are growing beautifully. Plus, this month our Zoo Corps teens planted 72 pollinator plants in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo as part of their “Operation Pollination” project. They also made and distributed 414 “seed bombs” filled with Texas native pollinator seeds for guests to easily plant their yards.

IMG_1385-4x6-Monarch-CB

A dedicated team: Comprised of some of the most earth-loving folks, the Dallas Zoo’s dedicated Green Team keeps us in check and in good company with Mother Nature. The Green Team manages our recycling program; helps develop sustainable practices; promotes conservation efforts; and simply makes us better every day. (Fun fact: They’ve found a local company that’ll turn our used Styroforam into lightweight concrete! Winning.) The team’s website is coming soon with details on how you can go green at home. If you’re interested in helping the Zoo with a conservation project, email volunteers@dallaszoo.com.

_MG_2150-CB

Green Team helps kids plant trees in the zoo on Forest Wildlife Day.

Categories: Conservation, Education, Volunteers | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Zoo Corps teens make small impact to help big pollination crisis

Pinterest

Dallas Zoo’s Zoo Corps youth-led conservation team guest-blogs on ZooHoo! Our group of 13 Corps members worked together to select a conservation issue, develop a solution, and put it into action. Here’s their story.

IMG_9865 Bee on purple flower CSOur planet is in the midst of a pollination crisis. Because of human actions, pollinators are facing extinction – making plants around the world unable to reproduce. If we don’t make changes, this crisis could spark a major food shortage, and possibly a global famine.

Nature is a truly wondrous thing. Even people who live in urban areas, like Dallas, can enjoy the beauty of nature. Pollination is an extremely important process that happens to be the quickest and most efficient process to help flowering plants reproduce. Without pollination, flowering plants would have to rely on wind and water to reproduce, which is an extremely sluggish method.

So what exactly are pollinators? A pollinator is an animal that transports pollen from one plant to another, fertilizing the plants. Pollinators include birds, bees, insects and bats, along with a large variety of other organisms. Without pollinators the earth would eventually be reduced into a mere wasteland.

The Zoo Corps teens installed a pollination garden in the Children's Zoo.

The Zoo Corps teens installed a pollination garden in the Children’s Zoo.

How is pollination carried out? When an organism goes towards a flower to get its nectar, it brushes against the flower. The flower will sense this and release pollen onto the organism. This organism will go to other plants for more nectar. When the animal does this its drops off the pollen from the other plant, pollinating that plant.

Unfortunately, thousands of species of pollinators die every year from habitat loss, pollution, car exhaust, pesticides and more. Bees are earth’s biggest pollinators and their populations are rapidly dwindling. We lose about 30 percent of the bee population each year.

4Because the Dallas Zoo cares so much for pollinators, we built a pollination garden through our Zoo Corps event called Operation Pollination. We planted 72 native plants in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo including, purple cone flower, milkweed, blackfoot daisy and more. We also made and distributed 414 “seed bombs” filled with Texas native pollinator seeds for guests to easily plant their yards. We also installed two hummingbird feeders and one bat box for our local pollinators to enjoy.

If you didn’t make it out to our event, you can still help pollinators by planting your own garden with plants that are native to Texas. (See photos from our event and our entire Zoo Corps experience on our Instagram page!)

Categories: Conservation, Volunteers | Tags: | 3 Comments

A Texas-sized ‘thank you’ to our selfless volunteers

Pinterest

IMG_4430 farmers volunteersAs the director of Volunteer Services at the Dallas Zoo and Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park, I’m continually amazed at the wonderful things our volunteers do. They bring a wealth of knowledge, skill and enthusiasm that is unmatched. And they help us in almost every area.

Staff love our volunteers, guests love them and, of course, our animals REALLY love them! They’re a pleasure to be around and a pleasure to work with. They are here because they choose to be here. Their hearts are in it 100 percent. They show up with a smile and leave with a smile. Most importantly, they help us achieve our mission of “Conserving Wildlife and Inspiring a Passion for Nature” day in and day out.

In 2015, the Dallas Zoo set a new attendance record of welcoming more than one million visitors!  We also set new records in our volunteer department. Here are a few statistics from the fiscal year:

  • 277 core volunteers contributed 22,595 hours of service
  • 1,343 corporate and group volunteers contributed 11,048 hours of service
  • 24 interns and veterinary externs contributed 9,580 hours of service

That’s 1,644 volunteers who gave 43,223 hours of time to the Dallas Zoo and Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park, and we’re on trackIMG_3168 volunteers raking leaves CS to top those numbers this year!

Are you wondering how you can join us? You don’t have to be an animal expert or a master in conservation. As long you’re at least 18, have a passion for wildlife and nature, and are able to meet the time commitment required for the volunteer opportunity you choose, we would love to talk to you!

Some of our volunteer opportunities include:

  • Animal keeper aides
  • Gorilla Research Station (GRS) ambassador
  • Base camp ambassador
  • Park ambassador
  • Education program assistants
  • Animal Nutrition Center (ANC) aide
  • Horticulture volunteer
  • Clerical volunteer
  • Conservation “Wild Earth” Action Days volunteer
  • Special events – SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) weekends, Halloween Nights, Zoo to Do and more

CLICK HERE to learn more about our volunteer opportunities. We’d love to welcome you to our Dallas Zoo family.

Categories: Volunteers | Leave a comment

Dallas Zoo helps plant a record-setting 11,000 trees

Pinterest

Dean of Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Academy, Ben Jones, guest blogs on ZooHoo! 

big thicket 1Our Dallas Zoo Wild Earth Action Team led 65 volunteers last Saturday to help reforest a 300-acre tract in Big Thicket National Preserve. The area was heavily impacted by hurricanes and past logging. According to the National Park Service, we set an all-time record by planting 11,000 longleaf pines in the Preserve in one day.

big thicket 3

Photo credit: Audubon.org

Dallas Zoo delivered this action for animals on behalf of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and in honor of the centennial anniversary – 100 years – of the National Parks Service. It’s a long-term investment as our trees will be ready for the red-cockaded woodpecker (and bi-centennial celebration) when they mature in about 80 years.  Tell your grandkids to visit!

The red-cockaded woodpecker is a small bird without brilliant plumage or spectacular displays, but with a social system as complex as any North American animal, more like a primate than a bird. For their cavity homes, they need old, living pine trees, which are pretty rare today. Over 90 million acres of longleaf pine forest once stretched across the American south. But beginning in 1940, vast areas of public and private land were big thicket 2converted to short-rotation forestry and now less than 10,000 acres of old-growth longleaf pine remain today.

No strategy to save animals is complete without a focus on habitat loss and the work to restore it. Saving animals from extinction is not only a battle, but also a movement made up of scores of passionate and dedicated people caring and working together. At Dallas Zoo, we care for animals and we know our members, guests, and volunteers do, too. Every forest protected, every waterway restored, every endangered species saved begins with us. Our Dallas Zoo network, working and caring together, will change the world for wildlife.

Categories: Conservation, Volunteers, Zookeepers | Tags: | Leave a comment

Brought to you by the Dallas Zoo