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Duane Hills

Ethnicity:

Black

Current position: 

Director of Conservation Education

Current facility:

National Aquarium

Year zoo career began:

2000

Duane is the Director of Conservation Education at the National Aquarium where he directs the planning, budgeting, implementation, and evaluation of conservation education programs for schools, teachers, community, and youth for the National Aquarium. He ensures that all educational opportunities connect people with nature, increasing awareness and efforts to protect animals and their habitats.

Since Duane was a child, he has desired a career working with animals in a zoo or aquarium. His parents bought a subscription to Zoobooks and he would study each issue, particularly the back cover where the contributors and consultants, mostly curators and zoologists, were listed. Duane knew he wanted to be one of them but didn’t know how to do it, and as a Black kid he didn’t see people like him working with animals at zoological institutions, so he wasn’t sure how to begin.

In high school, Duane began working at the Jacksonville Zoo as a train operator and tour guide. From there, his eyes were opened to the possibilities of a zoo career. He volunteered at the Jacksonville Zoo and became the youngest docent – only two were black. Eventually he worked as a camp aide and moved into an animal care position supporting the herpetology department. The team welcomed him, mentored him, and gave him access to a whole new world. From there, Duane ventured into social work, management consulting, and informal education before coming back to his passion – conservation education. Since then, Duane has worked as an education specialist at the Oakland Zoo and the manager of education at the Mississippi Aquarium before moving to his current position. Duane has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and has completed some graduate studies at the University of Southern California.

Duane loves connecting people to wildlife and conservation issues. He is in awe of the natural world and is fulfilled when others are moved to protect Earth’s resources. To aspiring conservation educators, Duane advises that you be persistent and do not let anyone deter the pursuit of your aspirations. Be open and learn all that you can regarding your profession. Gain practical experience and select good mentors.