Pride In Our People: Gretchen


Our digital series, Pride In Our People, features the incredible staff at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium through written first-person narratives and/or podcast interviews.
Today, we are featuring Gretchen from our Horticulture Team! 
This is her story…

I am a Western PA native, and although I have always loved to garden, my background is primarily in the agriculture and food realm.

I attended culinary school my first year out of high school but eventually went back to school and earned my degree in Ecology, Conservation, and Environmental Biology. While working towards my degree, I also volunteered at the local community garden off campus, which got me interested in growing food, saving seeds, and teaching others where their food comes from. I wanted to know what it was like to grow food on a larger scale, so the day after I graduated college, I packed up my car and headed west to Boulder, Colorado, where I resided for 6 years. In that time, I worked on two 20+ acre organic vegetable farms and also at a local grocery store as a floral buyer. Eventually, I moved back home to be closer to my family, which led me to the Zoo Gardener position.

I care for two zones in the Zoo: the Savanna and the Tropical Forest Complex. Although there are repetitive tasks I complete on a weekly basis (weeding, watering, fertilizing, etc.), my days are varied with other tasks that go along with the seasons. This includes spring cleanup, temperate and tropical plantings, exhibit upkeep, browse, digging out tropicals, helping with Zoo Lights, and so much more. Having a variable schedule keeps things interesting!

When I’m actively working in the park, I get a lot of questions asking if I work with the animals, to which I happily reply, “I actually work with the plants!” Sometimes guests think that the indoor plants are not real or do not necessarily realize how much work the horticulture staff puts into creating the exotic habitats in our very temperate landscape. Producing our large tropical displays is a tough task, especially when we dig them out only a few months later, but it is worth it because we work hard to immerse visitors in these habitats to enhance their experience while at the Zoo.

My favorite part of working at the Zoo is working with my horticulture cohorts! I am so thankful to be part of a group that works so well together and that makes me laugh so much too! It is a wonderful feeling when I can go home and feel sore from smiling and laughing so hard—and from doing work too, of course!


Thank you for all you do, Gretchen!


Pride In Our People

 Our new series, Pride In Our People, features the incredible staff here at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium.