Check out our recent chat with Katie Propp, Conservation Education Director with Penguins International. The mission of Penguins International is to actively engage in penguin conservation projects, to advance knowledge and understanding of penguins through scientific research, to promote awareness of threats to penguins, and to provide conservation education to the public.
What is your background?
- Katie is a zoologist and informal science communicator and her passion for wildlife conservation led her into roles that champion endangered species. She has been a zookeeper, science museum educator, digital platform creative, aquarium educator, polar science spokeswoman, conservation project manager, television broadcaster, and roving naturalist. She has let her experiences set her up for the next adventure. It's her life's mission to use knowledge and research of endangered animals to advocate for biodiversity and empower people to make a difference through conservation leadership and sustainable actions.
How does Penguins International contribute to ocean conservation?
- Penguins International partners with zoos, aquariums, museums and non-profits to share penguin information through educational talks and digital resources. Utilizing current research from penguin scientists we are able to educate the public about penguin biology, species status according to the IUCN Red List, and the threats penguins face in the wild. Penguins are marine sentinels and represent ocean health. Educating people on the threats to penguins allows us to find solutions together to help keep our oceans (and penguins) healthy.
How did you choose this career path?
- When I was 15, I became a youth volunteer at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. Once I set foot on zoo grounds I knew that becoming a conservation leader was my future. I loved sharing biofacts with guests at the zoo and could talk someone's ear off about any animal. I found my passion for polar science when I was selected from the volunteers to travel to Churchill, Canada to study polar bears with scientists at the age of 16 with Polar Bears International's Leadership Camp. My first trip to the Arctic changed my life and I was hooked! Later I learned about penguins in Antarctica and saw many similarities in climate change and the impacts on sea ice and life on the poles. I wanted very much to do something about it!
What is your favorite part of your job?
- I love being an advocate for penguins and the opportunities to travel and meet people that are equally passionate about penguins as well as the penguins themselves.
What are future goals for Penguins International?
- Penguins International aims to support all 18 penguin species through a variety of projects. I personally am really excited about our ongoing partnership with Punta San Juan and the work they are doing to build artificial nest boxes for Humboldt Penguins! I am hoping that this year we can support them and install at least 30 nest boxes. Penguins International will also be highlighting Emperor Penguins this year and looking forward to supporting scientists that are working on population monitoring. I'd love to see the Emperor Penguin listed as threatened according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Act because governments and policies will have to be put in place to preserve them!
What advice would you give to others?
- Wildlife conservation is not an easy road, if this is the path you'd like to take it's important that you believe in hope. We live in a world where sometimes it is hard to find hope when the endangered species list grows every year. However, it is people with hope that make a difference, that believes in change and ignites the hearts of their peers. Take the opportunities that present themselves, build your network, and in the words of the late Steve Irwin, "Be passionate and enthusiastic in the direction that you choose in life, and you'll be a winner."
What gives you inspiration?
- Nature! When you are out in the wild and you look around and the surroundings are vast and complex, and yet there are living things that thrive in that space. The Arctic for example might seem cold and desolate but it is teeming with life. The lichen beneath your boots, the wisps of white smoke that curl out on each exhale, the snowflakes sticking to your eyelashes. When you're underwater in a wetsuit and at first the cold of the water hits you, then you adjust and breathe the oxygen that shouldn't be there. A fish swims past you and that flash of scales, the way their eyes look backward at you and you feel your heartbeat in your ears. How can you not be mesmerized by it all?
Who is your environmental hero?
- Sir David Attenborough
To learn more about Penguins International and how they work to save penguins you can visit their website and follow them on social media.
You can support Penguins International with our penguin products!