Giving the Opportunity to Pursue a Career in Life Sciences
By Lisa Thibault
With great thanks to the Cullen Foundation, the Buffalo Zoo recently launched a brand new career-based program called the for teens. A group of 15 extraordinary students ages 14-18 from schools across Erie County were selected for the program from a pool of more than 50 applicants. The students were from incredibly diverse backgrounds with one common bond – a motivation to pursue a career in science.
Over the course of six Saturdays this winter, teens accepted into the program had a blast exploring a variety of life science careers through hands-on experiences and access to professionals in these careers. Then they put their new found knowledge to work by creating projects to be presented to Zoo patrons, staff, family and friends at the end of the program.
As with any group of young people, we noticed within the first week that a few students stood out immediately with their knowledge, confidence, and innovation, while others were a bit more reserved. Throughout the program, students were encouraged to share their ideas and discuss various methods to approach different obstacles. It was amazing to watch the quiet, reserved students blossom into confident leaders within their groups. One student in particular went from having a soft voice during presentations one week to proudly explaining how she successfully taught a chicken to walk into a carrier the next week.
During their time at the Buffalo Zoo, these 15 students conducted a variety of projects designed entirely by them including:
- Determining differences in interactions between mother and child gorillas and proposing possible reasons behind these differences
- Analyzing locations of picnic and garbage areas at the Zoo to discover solutions to issues with litter
- Understanding feeding behavior differences between genders of squirrel monkeys with inferences about whythese behavioral differences exist
- Evaluating the relationship between ground cover and activity in meerkats and how it may relate to prey behaviors
- Investigating symbiotic relationships between trees, fungi, squirrels, and birds
This program has been so rewarding for everyone involved. Most students joining the program had very little exposure to the wide variety of life science careers available to them. We enjoyed watching each student discover more about the path they may take in the sciences and grow into more confident young adults. The Buffalo Zoo is excited about what the future may hold for these bright students and we sincerely hope many of them will join us in future programming or even as employees. We look forward to continuing the Life Sciences Career Lab for teens in the future.