FIU and Zoo Miami Team Up for Research

From left to right : Dean of Arts & Sciences Kenneth G. Furton, Zoo Miami Director Eric Stephens, University Provost Douglas Wartzok, Zoological Society of Florida Chairman Harlan Chiron and Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Dean Mike Hampton met on July 16 to sign their research memorandum of understanding which outlines future goals and projects both parties agreed on. Photo Courtesy of JoAnn Adkins/FIU News

Vinson Pressley/Staff Writer

According to a press release, the School of Environment, Arts, and Society, Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and Zoo Miami have joined forces. Their research will cover several areas of zoo biology, including reproduction, behavior, nutrition, conversation and the maintenance of animals in housing facilities.

The partnership – which has been dubbed Zoo Biology –  was formalized on Tuesday, July 16, when representatives from FIU and Zoo Miami signed the memorandum of understanding. This memorandum serves as a general outline to future projects and goals that both parties want to achieve.

According to Mike Heithaus, the executive director of SEAS, the memorandum of understanding outlines major areas of focus and touches on programs, internships, projects and community outreach initiatives that will come to life in the future. The next step is to work out the details and gather the resources necessary to achieve the goals mentioned in the memorandum.

Heithaus also discussed a lecture series which involves a researcher sharing and discussing their projects with the public, which is one of the goals of this partnership: informing the public about wildlife and getting the community interested and engaged in this type of work.

Frank Ridgley, conversation and research manager at Zoo Miami, talked about the team aspect of the official partnership.

“We want to collaborate on research projects, non-invasive projects and foster cooperation [with FIU],” said Ridgley. He also discussed future plans to take their work beyond the sciences and expand to other fields like education and communications. Ridgley mentioned that an estimated 880,000 people visit the zoo annually, which has “one of the most diverse animal and botanical collections” and looks forward to getting more visitors to come see the large attraction.

Ridgley embraced the partnership with FIU, saying that teaming up with the institution  gives both parties a chance to share knowledge, research and diverse expertise while advancing mutual goals together rather than apart.

Mike Hampton, dean of CSHTM, said their role will be to conduct analysis and research on Florida’s tourism in relation to Zoo Miami. Hampton said his school focuses on the tourism/customer experience, observing customer’s likes, activities and reactions. This will help them find areas of tourism that can be capitalized on, ways to draw in additional visitors, how best to cater to them and other ways of utilizing this information.

Hampton discussed there are a variety of ways of conducting this research but it is only the beginning, they’ve only just joined, the next step is to come up with questions and plans to implement the study.

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