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Curriculum Leader – Zoo Animal Studies

Having been brought up around animals and with a zoologist father I spent most of my formative years on remote islands, bird ringing or taking care of neighbour’s pets. I eventually went on to train as a primary school teacher and then in 2003, following a period of travel in South America, I got my first job in the zoo world. I worked at ZSL London Zoo on their then Children’s Zoo section and was there as a summer temporary member of staff, to interact with the visiting children and learn about all things ‘zookeeper.’ It was a life changing opportunity for me and one I will always be grateful for.

My first encounter with DMZAA was as a student on the course myself, under Mr Andy Beer and finding myself once again embarking on a course of study – I met some lifelong friends and contacts in those first few induction and residential experiences. The course opened my eyes to what it truly meant to be a ‘keeper’ and connected me with the industry in a permanent and inspiring way.

Eventually, after some years increasing my experience and ending up working with sealions and otters at ZSL Whipsande Zoo, I moved into a career that combined both of my passions: animals and teaching. As a lecturer in Animal Care and then eventually as a Course Coordinator of the Level 2 programmes at Oakland’s College in St Albans, I gained vital experience on course from Entry Level 3 trough to Foundation Degree teaching, and also my Assessing qualification at the same time.

So when an opening came up at Sparsholt College in Hampshire, with its highly regarded reputation in the zoo world, I jumped at the chance. I soon found myself running the Level 3 Animal Management course as well as later the Level 2 Animal Care Apprenticeship – and adding my Verifier qualification to my CV.

The day that I was approached about applying for the role to take over from Andy Beer when he retired for the college, was quite a shock to me – and even now having trained with Andy for 2 years and taken over ‘flying solo’ since August 2019; I am still finding many things to learn about and get involved in. I don’t imagine this process will stop any time soon!

The National Zoo Academy of Sparsholt College is now broadening its scope and coverage and we are excited to remain at the forefront of zookeeper and aquarist training in the UK and Ireland. The legacy of Andy is a unique platform to develop and grow into the 2020s.

DMZAA continues strongly and its reach into the Baltic States and the UAE expands the reach of this BIAZA lead course. The Volunteer Programme numbers are growing rapidly (more than quadrupling in 2019) and each element of the courses are undergoing some fine tuning and updating.

In addition to this solid foundation we are now about to launch our Zookeeper/Aquarist Apprenticeship delivery in 2020, taking this new step in training as recommended by employers. The DMZAA will continue as one established pathway (and of course will be critical for our Scottish and Irish partners where the apprenticeship does not apply) and we will now also be able to train staff under the apprenticeship employment system and syllabus too. Uniquely, Sparsholt can also offer a ‘hybrid course’ format and even a Top Up for DMZAA 2019 Alumni. Not only are we able to access the physical materials already built up over years to develop as appropriate, but the links to industry professionals and the DMZAA expert team are essential in our bespoke package.

I am so proud to be associated with these developments for real keeper/aquarist training and to be helping the vocation I love so much. The zoo and aquarium world has a vital part to play in the fight against the environmental emergency we now face, so training staff on the ground who know this well, is a crucial and enormous part of this effort for animals and the planet.

Now, if that isn’t a cause to get behind at work; I don’t know what is!