ArcGIS Enterprise

Podcast 12: Makis Harris, Birmingham Zoo; It's getting to see how we're all connected.

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Inspiring Passion to Conserve the Natural World. -The Birmingham Zoo

We met Makis Harris with the Birmingham Zoo, located in Birmingham, Alabama, during a behind-the-scenes giraffe encounter and he was so impressive we knew we had to interview him for the podcast. We asked him about being a guest before we left the zoo that same day. He has amazing energy and we wanted you to experience that as well.

He is so excited about animals and has put a great deal of effort into preparing for his role. He leads tours at the zoo, educates participants during the special encounters, collaborates with the zoo marketing team, dabbles in graphic design and pretty much anything else needed of him by the Education and Interpretation Team. He loves to learn and soaks up any knowledge he can about every animal from chance encounters around the zoo with keepers and veterinarians. He is curious about the world around him and wants to do his part to educate people of all ages about the animals who call our zoo home.

Makis talks with us about the Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program, which captures species related data about many animals in our zoo. That data is compared to other animals in that species for positive potential genetic matches. It helps zoo specialists identify which individuals residing in zoos around the US would make good potential mates.

We discussed and explored some opportunities where technological advancements are being made and where technology could help the zoo in the future. Makis is very forward-thinking and had some great ideas for where technology could assist not only keepers, but educators, and visitors alike. His creative nature really shined when he shared his ideas about interactive exhibits that could be used in the reptile area.

We also discussed some of the improvements the zoo has made in recent years as it continues to make the visitor experience better as well as the living areas for the animals. The Birmingham Zoo puts a great deal of effort into special events throughout the year and Makis is certainly in the thick of planning and preparation as we quickly come up on the busy season for the zoo, between mid-March through October.

This episode colors outside of the lines a little bit, but Makis’ journey is certainly an experience worth recording. Zoos provide an amazing educational opportunity to spark interest and allow guests to engage with the animals in ways they otherwise likely could not. Many children are inspired to zoological work by visits to their local zoos at young ages. Visitors of the zoo experience the animals in residency, encounter informational placards, and learn about the geography of the world as a result. Connecting our zoos with GIS is the next piece of the geospatial puzzle. The science of where can be found everywhere, if we only seek to find and recognize it.

About the authors

Melissa is an engineer on the product team focused in applied geography. She can be found hiking and exploring national parks during her travels.

Remi is the Product Manager for the ArcGIS Utility Network and spends his free time exploring the US Southwest desert and California beaches.

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