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Cher Vatalaro

Ethnicity:

White

Current position: 

Director of Conservation Education

Current facility:

Lehigh Valley Zoo

Year zoo career began:

2008

Cher is the Director of Conservation Education at the Lehigh Valley Zoo where she gets to do a wide variety of tasks. Cher’s department does the training and handling for ambassador animals and creates, implements, and runs all the education programming for the zoo. Some of the ambassador animals include snakes, lizards, invertebrates, frogs, armadillos, parrots, a sloth, and a raccoon. Cher also interacts with guests daily by telling the story of the zoo and the animals while creating memorable experiences for visitors. Getting to share her knowledge and passion with the guests to help them connect to the animals and the zoo’s mission is one of her favorite parts of the job.

Cher has known that she wanted to work with animals since a visit to Sea World when she was five years old. As she grew, she gained experience through her local animal shelter and completed an internship at a marine mammal facility in Florida before attending college at Penn State. While pursuing her degree, she took courses and completed internships at Penn State’s environmental center. Towards the end of her college career and after graduating, Cher worked as a marine mammal intern and then a bird and marine mammal trainer in Florida. She wanted to return home to the Lehigh Valley, so she took a job outside of the zoo field for a few years before being hired part time as an educator at the Lehigh Valley Zoo. She worked her way up to her current position, spending time as a conservation educator and ambassador animal trainer.

Cher’s favorite parts of her job are forming relationships with animals and getting to develop other staff in their careers. She recommends that aspiring zoo professionals don’t doubt themselves. Cher was not a great student, and she thought it would hold her back. Her determination and experience carried her much farther than her grades in school did.