I graduated in 2016 and have been working in the zoo industry ever since

Lauren Florisson, MSc Zoo Conservation Biology graduate

My first job was working as a Registrar and Zoo Keeper for a small zoo in Scotland where I was responsible for keeping records and coordinating animal transfers and additionally being a bird keeper. 

In 2017, I was offered a job working for the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) as a Programmes Officer. In this role I supported the Director and the Programmes Manager in their work. 

Last year I made the jump to a similar role working for the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). I am responsible for my own working group (EAZA nutrition working group) and work for the Animal Programmes department as Support Officer.

In my role at BIAZA, I was responsible for supporting several committees such as the Research Committee, Mission Enabling Committee and several working groups, answering questions from members and facilitating committees and working groups, helping them to meet the BIAZA standards. BIAZA is the zoo and aquarium industry body in the UK and Ireland and has around 120 zoos and aquariums which are members. These institutions have high standards in education, animal care, research and other important areas of zoo industries.

At EAZA, I work in the Animal Programmes Department which coordinates the Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGS) and the Animal Breeding Programmes (EEPs). They support the various coordinators and chairs in meeting the aims of the different programmes. I support the four liaisons to the TAGS with keeping records up to date. I coordinate the annual conference programme with other people at the office and am also responsible for keeping the financial overview of the biannual conservation campaign run by EAZA. One day a week I am contracted to the European Union of Aquarium Curators (EUAC) which I help with administration such as keeping the website up to date and supporting the Steering Committee in meeting their objectives.

My career highlights include actually making the decision to apply and getting accepted onto the masters programme at Plymouth. This has given me such a better understanding of zoo management that I did not get in my undergraduate degree as that was very broad.  Another highlight was getting the jobs at BIAZA and EAZA as this is work that I want to do and grow more in.

Why Plymouth?

The main reason I chose Plymouth was to get a better understanding of zoo management and to give myself less of a broad background in animal management but rather aimed at zoos. The MSc offered a diverse range of subjects combined with the practical element taught at Paignton Zoo. The modules gave me a broad understanding but I could narrow down my own interests with the projects and assignments which made it even more valuable and interesting.

The programme opened doors for me that would have otherwise remained closed. The ability to network with the staff at Paignton Zoo and the knowledge of the course lecturers allowed me to meet a lot more people within the small zoo community. Even now working for the European Association I regularly meet the same people. 

Plymouth allowed me to pursue my own interests in my thesis. It allowed me to see that zoos and aquariums are not only places where animals are kept but can offer so much more.

The MSc helped me to see that I was not only interested in working with animals but I wanted a different career path. 

I realised that there is a lot more work within the zoo industry, meaning you do not need to work for only one zoo but rather for a zoo association. The close working relationship with Paignton Zoo showed me how a larger institution is run with many departments working together for the same goal. I have a similar feeling when working for an association in that we are all working for the same goal. The zoo community is a small community with many of the same faces with a lot of expertise and friendly atmosphere even when we do not always agree between us. 

Plymouth has broadened my horizon.