My official title in the park is Animal Trainer, but I think it encompasses so much more. I am a zoo keeper, educator, trainer, chef and, as my mom says, a “glorified pooper scooper.” When I was little, I was sure that I wanted to be a veterinarian because I had no idea there were other options for working with animals. Now after working in the zoo field for nine years, I know I made the right choice. I enjoy the daily interaction with the animals, the relationships I form with them, the training involved and especially educating the guests in our beautiful park. Truly my favorite part of the job is seeing kid’s faces the first time they touch a sloth or when they convince their mom to touch the boa constrictor.
When I was 16, I began working at Busch Gardens in the games department. What a great summer job. I met some amazing people that I am still in touch with, and I’m pretty sure I can still catapult a plastic frog onto a lily pad in one shot. After college I worked as a Giraffe/Okapi keeper at a zoo in Maryland. Although I was getting a ton of experience working with animals, I was mainly behind the scenes. When I moved back to Virginia, I was very lucky to get a position with the zoological department at Busch Gardens because now I can interact with the guests in so many ways—from being out in the park with the animals to visiting local schools for demonstrations.
I love my job. It allows me to spend all day taking care of the most amazing animals, but they are a lot of work. At the end of my day I am very happy to return home to my very regular dog, Bridget.