This interview was first published in JWeekly.
Name: Blair Bazdarich
City: San Francisco
Position: K-12 outreach coordinator at Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco
J.: What animals do you find most interest kids?
Blair Bazdarich: I specifically love talking to kids about animals and conservation because you can really get a bug in their ear about what makes wildlife so great and how we can help it. I always like to bring out animals that were at one point so endangered that they were almost extinct, but have made a comeback, like the American alligator. I bring out a baby one, which the kids find amazing.
I also like to bring out snakes, because if a kid who is afraid of snakes can touch one, that’s really great. I also love to bring animals that kids have never heard of before, like armadillos.
J.: Have you always been interested in animals and wildlife conservation?
BB: I was born and raised in the Sunset District, and I started going to the San Francisco Zoo when my mother was pregnant with me. I began volunteering at the zoo when I was 13, then had an internship at the zoo the summer after high school. While I was at Sonoma State getting a degree in biology with a concentration in zoology, I worked at the zoo’s summer camps, and on weekends during the school year as a guide for its overnight programs.
J.: How have you tuned your passion for wildlife into a career?
BB: After college, I went to work at the San Francisco Zoo doing its zoo-mobile program, and I was also a zookeeper for a couple of years. This past July, I took the position of K-12 outreach coordinator at the Aquarium of the Bay. I felt I needed to get back into doing education, which I feel is my calling and my cause. I put down the poop shovel, as it were, to go back to my roots.
J.: How did you land an internship at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo last year? And was it your first time in Israel?
BB: It was my second time in Israel. I went on a Birthright Israel trip the year before. My mom is Jewish and my dad is Catholic. I have been very close to my mother’s family, especially my grandmother, my bubbe, and I went on the trip as a dedication to her. She passed away a few years ago, and I didn’t get to tap in to her about Jewish faith and history as much as I would have liked to, so I went on the trip to learn.
I came back and all I could think about all day, every day was Israel. Then someone from Real Life Israel [an internship program] called me and told me they could get me an internship at the Jerusalem Zoo. That very day I decided I would go to Israel for six months.
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.