Biracial (Italian, Black)
Learning and Engagement Specialist, Outreach
Year zoo career began:
Gianna Ross is a learning and engagement specialist at the Philadelphia Zoo where her primary responsibility is to create educational outreach programs for all types of people from all over! These programs focus on reconnecting people with wildlife by presenting wildlife through the zoo’s education animal ambassadors. Typically, Gianna spends her time training and maintaining their ambassador animals’ behaviors. She also trains others in the education department to cue the behaviors and coach them in different teaching techniques since every animal, human and non-human, learns differently. Gianna also provides programming to schools and guests by utilizing their ambassador animals on site, off site, and virtually.
Gianna grew up in Philadelphia and was obsessed with animals from an early age. She begged to have pets and eventually had hamsters, gerbils, fish, and a dog. In high school she focused on human anatomy and art with a goal of becoming a scientific illustrator. Gianna went to college for fine art and earned a Bachelor’s in Anthropology with a minor in Art History from Temple University. While in her senior year, Gianna interned at the Philadelphia Zoo for six months following a suggestion from a friend. After graduating, she began working part time in the education department at the zoo while also interning at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia with their education collection of animals. Gianna also earned a master’s degree in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University at this time. In 2017 Gianna began her current position at the zoo while also continuing her part time work at the Academy of Natural Sciences.
Gianna’s favorite part of her job is building relationships with the animals she works with and getting to meet other people with unique, interesting stories and backgrounds. Her job surprisingly includes a lot of paperwork! Her advice to aspiring zoo educators is to not be afraid to be the only person like you in the field. Gianna didn’t have any role models that looked like her, and so she never thought her current position was an option. She pushed past the doubt to get to her current position and is happy now to see others like her in the field.