Pride In Our People: margie


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 Margie, CURATOR OF CONSERVATION EDUCATION
This is her story…


I grew up in a family that loved animals. Wherever we went on vacation, we always visited a zoo. When I was in 3rd grade, I told my mother that I wanted to work in a zoo when I was older. Fast forward to when I graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology, and have had several internships at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Then, I got my dream job as an animal keeper at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. It was my honor to care for our wonderful animals.

When I was a keeper, we had a small keeper staff so we would be called upon to teach classes to our volunteers and school groups. I always volunteered to teach classes which led me to a career shift. In 1990, I became the first Curator of Conservation Education. I chose to further my schooling by getting a master’s degree in education at Duquesne University. I was given the opportunity to create an education department that now has grown to be what it is today. We have innovative programs for a variety of age groups. These programs feature many of the animals that we have here at the Zoo and Zoo’s conservation projects around the world.

Although a lot of what I do now is mostly managerial, my favorite activity still is giving tours. I love being out in the Zoo talking about our animals, endangered species, and wildlife conservation. I have probably given hundreds of tours in my time at the Zoo. This includes tours for teachers, school groups, zoo campers, scouts, and even some Pirate players!

With so many different opportunities afforded to me over the years, it is difficult to pick the best. One of my proudest accomplishments is being involved with our conservation partners. When the Zoo turned 100 years old, we celebrated with many events. We even received a special “guest” from the San Diego Zoo; a koala! When the San Diego Zoo recruited colleagues from their partner zoos to help them in Australia, I immediately volunteered. I got to work with the Australian Koala Foundation in the fall of 1999 in the land down under. I never thought I would see a koala in a wild! The trip was beyond amazing as we worked with Australian biologists out in the bush. We conducted a census of eucalyptus trees and observed koalas every day in the wild. Sometimes we even saw koalas in people’s backyards! This experience gave me a new appreciation of conservation that I was able to bring back to my work at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Every day I continue to challenge myself and my coworkers to find opportunities to do this important work.

When Water’s Edge opened in 2007, we had an opportunity to develop conservation education programs with a focus on polar bears and sea otters. These are two of my favorite animals! With the exhibit opening, Polar Bears International (PBI), a conservation group dedicated to saving polar bears around the world, classified the Zoo as an Arctic Ambassador site. With that designation, I worked with PBI on a number of programs. Soon polar bears became my passion. One specific program I became involved in was a nationwide contest for local high school students called Project Polar Bear. This was an intensive, year-long program that challenged teams of high school students to develop community projects to help polar bears in the wild. I worked with several schools in Allegheny County. Amazingly, one of the Zoo’s teams from South Allegheny High School won the nationwide contest in 2011. Their ambitious efforts and hard work were rewarded with a free trip to see polar bears in the wild, traveling to what is known as the polar bear capital of the world; Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. These students really embodied PBI’s philosophy of creating the next generation of conservationists. Helping these teens with this project is certainly one of the highlights of my career. Although I did not travel with them on their trip to see polar bears, I have been fortunate to view polar bears in the wild twice. To see these glorious animals in their natural environment is truly a life-changing experience. That experience makes me want to work hard every day to help save these magnificent creatures and preserve their Arctic habitat. 

Another great opportunity that I had at the Zoo was getting to care for an orphaned sea otter pup from the Alaska SeaLife Center. The pup arrived at the Zoo, and I got to work a few midnight shifts to help care for this cute creature. To this day, I enjoy going to the sea otter habitat to watch Meschick and Alki. I also enjoy teaching the visitors about these two sea otters.

Working at the Zoo has given me a lot of opportunities, making this profession so unique. Other than my love for schnauzers, my love for the Zoo is unmatched. This environment is truly a living laboratory for lifelong learning and education which is at the heart of the Zoo’s mission. I am proud to be able to play a part in fostering an appreciation of wildlife and conservation in our own backyard and even faraway places.


Thank you for all you do, Margie!

Pride In Our People

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