Robyn Foster is Lead Educator at the San Diego Zoo! Robyn will be facilitating the September OPOT Get-Together along with her tour guide colleagues. Through her role Robyn works with the Education & Premium Experiences department to create an entertaining and educational adventure for the Zoo’s outreach programs and visitor experiences, all while learning about the care and conservation of the Zoo’s animals.
Can you tell us a bit about your time with the Zoo and your role as lead educator?
I’ve been with the Zoo for a little over 10 years now, I actually started out as a seasonal intern for the Education department during the summers while I was in college. After I graduated from school I was hired on full-time as an educator, and over the years moved up the ranks to now lead educator. I’m on a team of four lead educators in the Education & Premium Experiences department, and really what we do is handle all of the tour planning and scheduling; coordinating with other departments to implement programs both within the Zoo and offsite in schools, hospitals, and other outreach capacities; and some of the day-to-day operations. We’re kind of a two-pronged department, so on one side we have the education programming with school field trips, assembly and classroom programs for all of San Diego County, and other youth group programs onsite. And the other side of that is the premium experiences, which include the paid programs that guests can purchase for a special experience at the Zoo.
What would you say you enjoy most about your job?
That’s a good question! My favorite thing about my job is that every day is different, there’s always something new going on and so I’m always jumping into different roles. One of the programs that I enjoy working on the most is called Zoo Corps, which is our teen volunteer program. It’s really rewarding to provide a setting for teens to explore their interests in wildlife and conservation, and kind of help foster their growth and development over the course of their high school careers. It’s such a lovely program to be involved with.
Do you have a favorite animal story that you like to share with guests?
There’s definitely one story that’s close to my heart and it’s about a special Caribbean flamingo named Floyd. Basically when he hatched the keepers noticed that Floyd was always slightly tilted to one side because of a deformity with one of his legs. It became necessary to operate as he grew and gained weight, but this was a procedure that our vets had never done on a flamingo before. We know that the recovery would be arduous but it was really Floyd’s best shot at a normal life and a normal life expectancy. Once the surgery was completed Floyd had to stay off his feet to allow his bones to heal, and the only real way to achieve that was to have keepers and trainers, myself included, hold him for 24 hours a day for two weeks! We would carefully transfer him every few hours from one lap to the next for food and water and snuggles. It was incredibly heartwarming to see so many employees from several different departments take shifts to hold Floyd and I’m so happy I was able to be a part of his recovery story. I smile every time I see Floyd out with the rest of the flock, living his best life!
Are there any exciting events or programs you’re looking forward to at the Zoo?
There’s always something, but there is one program that we recently launched that’s just getting off the ground and that’s the Early Morning Cheetah Experience. Participants actually get a chance to meet our cheetah trainer and see the cheetah run and play off leash, with a barrier between them and the visitors of course! We’re really excited to see how that program will be received. Halloween is also coming up fairly soon, so we have some fun and spooky events planned! A twilight cart tour featuring the elusive aye aye is also in the works.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work on your free time?
I always love spending time with my family, I’m a San Diego Native and so is my husband so we’re able to spend time with both our families often. We have a standing brunch date every Sunday with our families to catch up and enjoy some downtime together. I’m also an avid reader, and I’m always researching mine and my husband’s next travel destination!
What are you reading, watching, or listening to on repeat right now?
Well I enjoy a lot of different kinds of music, I actually have been playing an 80’s song I love on repeat because it was brought back to my attention on an episode of the Handmaid’s Tale. I really enjoyed the book and the show has been gripping to say the least. You sort of have to love dystopian literature to be able to appreciate it. I’m a serial re-reader so I’m also re-reading The Night Circus because I was recommending it to a few friends and had to revisit it again.
What is your favorite spot in Balboa Park?
That’s hard! Like I said I grew up here as did my husband, so Balboa Park has always been in our lives – we actually took our engagement photos in the Park. I’m really fond of those picturesque spots like the Botanical Building and the Lily Pond, and I love seeing the California Tower surrounded by the sunset when I’m going home from work.
Supported by the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.