Environmental Science & Sustainability

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Zoo & Conservation Science at Drake University

  • Zoos and conservation organizations provide exciting career opportunities for Drake students interested in animal behavior.
  • In the U.S., there are more than 4,000 INSTITUTIONS that meet the definition of a zoo, including zoological parks such as Des Moines' Blank Park Zoo, as well as other for-profit and non-profit organizations.
  • The Association of Zoos and Aquariums recognizes 233 ACCREDITED ZOOS and AQUARIUMS in the U.S. and Canada.
  • There are approximately 750,000 ANIMALS of 6,000 SPECIES in the care of accredited facilities, including 1,000 ENDANGERED species.
  • Zoos contribute more than $17 BILLION to the U.S. economy, supporting 160,000 JOBS.
  • More than 181 MILLION PEOPLE visit zoos every year, more than all professional sports combined.
  • Zoos and aquariums play an important role in conservation and education, providing information and training to more than 12 MILLION STUDENTS annually, and more than 400,000 TEACHERS attend zoo-based workshops.

Job Opportunities

Opportunities for careers in zoo science are competitive and, today, even entry-level positions require a college degree. Drake's zoo and conservation science concentration provides our graduates the background and practical experience needed for a competitive advantage in obtaining coveted area director, curatorial, and management positions. In addition, applicants with strong academic backgrounds and operational animal experience are very competitive as candidates for many senior roles in zoos - including education, operations, member relations and CEO positions.

A Student Voice

"My volunteer and research experience at the Ape Cognition and Conservation initiative helped me figure out what I want to do in the future. To not only help care for these animals but to also do research as a sophomore in college is something not many people my age have the opproutnity to do. I feel very lucky to have had this experience."
-Grace Baumgartner, Environmental Science, Class of 2018

Program Overview

This interdisciplinary concentration prepares students in a liberal arts tradition for entry level positions leading to leadership positions in zoos and conservation organizations. Coursework in this concentration is strongly interdisciplinary, drawing upon biology, psychology, and environmental science classes. Students develop technical and quantitative skills including laboratory and field methods, statistical analysis, and professional communication. Hands-on experience is a key component of this concentration. The program includes a sophomore practicum and a junior-year internship; this provides real-world experience in zoo and conservation settings and connect students with ongoing projects at the Blank Park Zoo and the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative, both of which are Drake partners located in Des Moines.

Drake’s Zoo and Conservation Science concentration is distinguished by its fundamental interdisciplinarity, emphasis on field experiences, opportunities for research and independent study, and service learning approach in the practicum and internship sequence. (This concentration is available only to students majoring in Biology, Environmental Science, Psychology, or Neuroscience.) Graduates of the program will be well prepared to work in work in the areas of animal behavior, wildlife rehabilitation, and animal conservation, or to pursue graduate study in diverse fields of zoological and environmental sciences.

This concentration is available only to students majoring in biology, environmental science, psychology, or neuroscience. The concentration requires completion of at least 15 credit hour that are not counted toward any other major, minor, or concentration. (This is to ensure that the additional credential represents genuine added competencies). The distribution of credits among departments varies due to cross-listing of courses.

Catalog Requirements for the Zoo and Conservation Science Concentration


Michael J. Renner
Professor of Biology & Psychology
Department of Environmental Science & Sustainability
Email: michael.renner@drake.edu
Phone: 515-271-2501

College of Arts and Sciences
Email: ask.as@drake.edu

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