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2013 Passion into Conservation Action (PiCA) Grant Recipients

2013 Passion into Conservation Action (PiCA) Grant Recipients

In 2012, the Birmingham Zoo started the Passion into Conservation Action (PiCA) Program, which allows employees to submit conservation research projects that the Zoo will fund. These projects support the Zoo’s conservation initiatives. After the applications were reviewed and narrowed down through a selection process, individuals were awarded grants to fund their chosen projects.


Travis Coty, Zoo Keeper (Predator Department)

Destination: Karoo Cat Research Farm in South Africa
Travel Dates: March 7-24, 2013
Project: Research with Small African Felids

Travis assisted Dr. Mircea Pfleiderer on a research farm in South Africa and learned about the keeping, behavior and ecology of the local felid species (Serval, Caracal, African Wild cat and Black-footed cat). This research included both observing the cats in human care and field investigations. Main research subjects were: social and hunting/feeding behavior, maternal behavior and ontogenesis, comparative ethology, ecology, systematics and taxonomy, and zoo biology.

For a detailed account of Travis’ PiCA Grant trip to the Karoo Cat Research Farm, please click here.

Benefit to Conservation:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The breeding program addressed the reintroduction demand for South African preserves, as well as the need to increase rare felids in zoos to broaden genetic populations.

Benefit to Birmingham Zoo:

  • Gained knowledge of wild African cats in their native environment.
  • Created a positive public impact, showing visitors that the Birmingham Zoo plays a direct role in small felid animal research and is always trying to find a better way to care for its animals.

Benefit to Career:

  • Further developed husbandry skills for small felids.
  • Networked internationally with experts.
  • Increased communication skills by presenting to groups and colleagues about experience in South Africa.


Brandon Moyer, Zoo Keeper (Reptile Department)

Destination: Pelican Point in Weeks Bay, Alabama
Travel Dates: April 5-7, 2013
Project: Oyster Reef Restoration

Brandon assisted in the Nature Conservancy’s ongoing project in Mobile Bay to restore three acres of oyster reef, which in turn will protect two miles of coastline and promote the growth of about 30 acres of sea grass beds. Oyster reefs provide suitable habitats for juvenile fish and invertebrates and protect the shoreline from wave erosion. The oysters themselves filter sea water and improve water quality.

Benefit to Conservation:
This project helped to create habitats for oysters and countless other species that rely on oysters to provide suitable habitats. These artificially created reefs also absorb wave energy and protect shoreline habitat from erosion.

Benefit to the Birmingham Zoo:DSC_0120

  • Furthered Zoo’s involvement in an important conservation issue that occurs in the state of Alabama.
  • Brought attention to a local conservation issue and communicated new knowledge to Zoo staff and guests.

Benefit to Career:

  • Allowed Brandon to better communicate with Zoo visitors about critical conservation issues happening on a local/statewide level.


Jennifer Pribble, Zoo Keeper (Bird Department)

Destination: The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana (CNMI), specifically the Island of Saipan
Travel Dates: May 4-June 6, 2013
Project: Mariana Avifauna Conservation Program

Jennifer assisted with the Mariana Avifauna Conservation (MAC) Program created by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana (CNMI) to save bird populations at risk due to predation by the brown tree snake in CNMI. The establishment of the brown tree snake on Saipan serves as a direct threat to the survival of many of the CNMI’s endemic and rare bird species.

For a detailed account of Jennifer’s PiCA Grant trip to Saipan, please click here.

Benefit to Conservation:
The Mariana Avifauna Conservation (MAC) Program was created by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana (CNMI) with objective to work in partnership with AZA to save bird populations at risk due to predation by brown tree snake on the island of Guam.

Benefit to the Birmingham Zoo:

  • The brown tree snake is likely solely responsible for the extirpation/severe reduction of all 25 bird species on the Island of Guam.
  • Participating will aid program in preventing reduction of bird populations on the CNMI islands.

Benefit to Career:

  • BZI has participated in the MAC program for three years. BZI currently holds Buff-hooded ground doves and have successfully bred this species (4 offspring).
  • This program ties in with the mission statement of BZI being a Conservation oriented program.


Danielle Williams, Zoo Keeper (Primates Department)

Destination: Matang Wildlife Center in the Kubah National Park of Malaysia
Travel Dates: August 1-14, 2013
Project: AZA Orangutan SSP Field Visit

The Matang Wildlife Center, MWC, focuses on the rehabilitation of confiscated and rescued orangutans, macaques, gibbons, sun bears, crocodiles, binturong, civets and other primates.  MWC is located within Kubah National Park, which is approximately 45 minutes outside of Kuching, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

For a detailed account of Danielle’s PiCA Grant trip to Malayasia, please click here.
Benefit to Conservation:
Danielle’s trip focused on enrichment, training (both with the animals and the staff), and information sharing.  She spent most of her time in Malaysia working with three female orangutans on trade and hand injection behaviors, as well helping develop staff knowledge to help further these goals.

Benefit to the Birmingham Zoo:

  • Opens a line of communication with Malaysian Orangutan professionals that currently does not exist.
  • Gain firsthand experience so that the Zoo staff will be better able to clearly communicate with the public regarding challenges wild orangutans face.

Benefit to Career:

  • Able to build and strengthen connections with dedicated orangutan staff both abroad & in U.S.
  • Become more culturally aware by traveling to Malaysia.
  • Will return with real examples of the impacts of deforestation and palm oil plantations on local orangutan and human populations.


Daniel Self, Zoo Keeper (Reptile Department)

Destination: Black Warrior River (Alabama)
Travel Dates: May-June, 2013
Project: Head Start Program for Alabama’s Endemic Flattened Musk Turtles in Human Care

Daniel’s trip examined the flattened musk turtle. The flattened musk turtle’s range of movement is limited to a small area of Alabama’s Black Warrior River drainage–one of the most restricted ranges of any North American turtle.  It is listed by the IUCN Red List as a Critically Endangered species due to its small natural range and continuing decline.  Threats to this species are myriad and include loss of and alteration of suitable habitat, pollution, disease, and illegal collection. 

For a detailed account of Daniel’s PiCA Grant trip to the Black Warrior River, please click here.

Benefit to Conservation:
It will directly contribute to the continued survival of a critically endangered, local turtle species found only in Alabama.

Benefit to Birmingham Zoo:
Participation in this project established the Birmingham Zoo as a local and regional conservation leader, while inspiring the local community to help preserve vanishing species and habitats.

Benefit to Career:

  • Opportunity to learn from and partner with a larger institution.
  • Sharpen turtle husbandry techniques and knowledge
  • Acquire skills and knowledge necessary to develop and organize similar conservation projects.


Lindsey Moyer, Zoo Keeper (Predator Department)

Destination: Sausalito, California
Travel Dates: August 2013
Project: The Mammal Marine Center

Lindsey worked with the Marine Mammal Center (MMC), whose mission seeks to release rescued animals back into the wild or place them in a suitable zoo or aquarium. The MMC’s research helps protect endangered animals with assistance from their strong volunteer base of more than 1,000 volunteers.

For a detailed account of Lindsey’s PiCA Grant trip to the Marine Mammal Center, please click here.

Benefit to Conservation:Picture2
Assisting in the MMC mission to rescue marine mammals in need

Benefit to the Birmingham Zoo:
The experience gained at the center provides a greater understanding of marine mammals, particularly the Birmingham Zoo sea lions.

Benefit to Career:

  • Gain knowledge about California sea lions that can be applied to any facility that I may work at now or in the future.
  • Better able to educate the public about how wild sea lions are rehabilitated at the Marine Mammal center and what the general public can do to protect them.


Christine Hoskinson, LVT, Clinic Manager (Animal Health Center)

Destination: Various parts Mississippi
Travel Dates: August-September 2013
Project: A Health Assessment of Black Bears in Mississippi

Little, if any, data on the health or density of the American black bear (Ursus americanus) in Mississippi, which is vital information when determining conservation needs.  Christine has surveyed the health status of the bear population in Mississippi by collecting relevant data on anesthetized bears including serum chemistry panels, complete blood cell count (CBC), serology for select disease, fecal parasitology exams, ectoparasite levels, and body condition.

For a detailed account of Christine’s PiCA Grant Assessment of Black Bears in Mississippi, please click here.
Benefit to Conservation:

  • The black bear population in Mississippi is not well studied.
  • Would benefit bear population by determining the health of individuals thus population as a whole.
  • Allow educated decisions when dealing with bear/human interactions.

Benefit to Birmingham Zoo:
By participating in this study, the Birmingham Zoo can directly affect, and help to protect, the state’s natural fauna. The Zoo can also help protect public by learning more about these animals and how they could impact human activities or lives.

Benefit to Career:

  • Fulfills professional goal to continue research efforts focused on conservation.
  • Results of study would be published in a peer-reviewed journal and presented at a national conference, increasing recognition for Christine and BZI as playing an important role in conservation efforts.