“Most people outside the ‘zoo world’ are surprised that such a job exists. They don’t realize the amount of effort that goes into creating a successful exhibit.”
During high school, Sue took two courses that appealed to her: animal behavior and architecture. She enjoyed both very much. However, she did not see how the two could be combined as a career. So, she decided to pursue a degree in architecture at college. Later, she realized that she could put her knowledge of architecture to work for zoos by designing animal exhibits.
Sue begins designing an exhibit by researching an animal’s natural environment, sometimes by travelling to Africa or Central America. She needs to learn all she can about the animal’s habitat, including the plants, climate, and topography. Then Sue must learn about the animal’s behavior, such as how much space it needs, if it climbs, jumps, or swims, and how strong it is. She uses all of this information to create a safe and comfortable space for the animal. Sue also works hard to create an exhibit that will be good for the animals, educational for zoo visitors, and deliver an important message about conservation.
Sue must work cooperatively with curators, zookeepers, educators, artists, engineers, and many others. Including everyone’s opinions can be quite challenging, but this helps her design the best environment for the animals as well as the keepers and visitors.