In our newest Beyond the Blueprints feature, meet interior designer Ann Marie Jackson! At RTA, Ann Marie designs beautiful, functional spaces for our K-12 and healthcare clients. In her free time, she volunteers as a docent at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to educate visitors about the reptiles and furry creatures she helps care for.
- Why do you volunteer at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo?
I have always loved animals and considered being a zoologist, but I also enjoyed design and architecture. Even though design caught my attention for a career, I still love animals. Volunteering at the zoo allows me to live in both worlds.
- What are some daily tasks you get to complete? What is your favorite?
My favorite thing is interacting with the public and experiencing their first-time interaction with an animal or seeing them light up when they learn something new and exciting. One instance that I remember was an older woman touching a snake for the first time with delight while her burly grandson was terrified and walked away. Both had vastly different interactions with the same animal.
- How long have you been volunteering at the zoo? How long do you intend to stay?
I have volunteered at Cheyenne mountain zoo since 2014 and spent seven years at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan. I enjoy this and will stick with it as long as I can juggle it with work and other activities. I can see myself being involved for a while.
- Do you work with all the animals? Do you have a favorite to work with?
I get to work with the small ambassador animals that live in the Loft; my favorite is Wakanda, a Moroccan Spiny Tailed lizard. I met him when he was very young and have seen him mature. His scales have an unusual texture for a reptile, and he is chartreuse green with a touch of blue-gray. He is beautiful.
- What’s the most challenging part about volunteering?
The most common question is, “how old is the animal?”. It is difficult to recall all those numbers. So I need to look it up each time before I present to be sure I tell the guests the correct information.
- Do you need any skills to be a volunteer at the zoo?
Not officially, but you should have a passion for animals and the environment. And to be a docent, it helps if you are comfortable talking and presenting in front of groups. The zoo provides a ten-week training class.