Your zoo needs you! The conservation field is not a lucrative career field. Like other altruistic ventures, working in conservation is a job of love rather than profit. In fact, many people working in zoos and other conservation jobs begin their career by volunteering their time to acquire experience.

I began my zoo career by volunteering at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb., where I began to learn what it took to be a zookeeper. It was the beginning of many years that I would devote to conservation efforts. While attending Iowa State University, I began volunteering at the Wildlife Care Clinic, which is a wildlife rehabilitation clinic. At the Wildlife Care Clinic, I learned to deal with an assortment of medical conditions in animals, as well as how to talk to people about the problems facing our environment and ways that we can help.

Once I had my degree and about a decade of volunteer experience under my belt, I was ready to begin a paid career in the zoo field. But that did not end my time volunteering. I continue to volunteer my time for causes that I feel are important, whether it is with the Finney County Humane Society or black footed ferret surveys. While not financially rewarding, the donation of time and energy to a cause you support is one of the most emotionally, mentally and spiritually rewarding things you can do.

The truth is that conservation organizations could not function without volunteers. There is rarely profit in trying to help our environment and without a direct source of income, budgets become tight. Through the time and effort donated by volunteers, work can be accomplished and messages can be spread exponentially more efficiently than if it were done solely by paid staff alone. Volunteerism is the fuel that drives us forward to a brighter future.

You might wonder how you can help out. Like me, you can start by helping at your local zoo. Lee Richardson Zoo needs help to fulfill our mission to instill appreciation and encourage stewardship of the Earth's natural treasures through the exhibition, conservation and interpretation of wildlife. From helping at fundraisers for exhibits such as Cat Canyon, making enrichment that can be given out to the animals or helping establish a bond with nature for the next generation through presentations with our animal ambassadors, you can be the fuel that allows Lee Richardson Zoo to continue its efforts.