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Leia Cook

Ethnicity:

Black

Current position: 

Education Programs Coordinator

Current facility:

Houston Zoo

Year zoo career began:

2015

Leia Cook is the Houston Zoo’s Early Childhood Programs Coordinator where she facilitates the Early Childhood programming on and off zoo grounds. Leia works with children, but she also gets the pleasure of working alongside amazing Ambassador Animals ranging from tiny Madagascar hissing cockroaches up to Australian dingoes. Every day Leia goes to work, she advocates for and participates in activities and behaviors that help to save animals in the wild. It is Leia’s role at the zoo to help be that catalyst for guests having a connection with nature, starting from a very early age.

As many children do, Leia has always had a soft spot for animals and being outdoors, a passion her parents fed by taking her to outdoor camps, zoos and aquariums, road trips, camping and more. Leia grew up loving being outside and when she could not be outdoors, she could be found deep into a discovery channel program. As she grew up, Leia began noticing that her passion was a little different than that of her Black peers. While she enjoyed the company of pets and was fascinated by the next science lesson at school, her friends seemed to find her interests ‘strange’. Leia never let that change her passion and only looked for more ways to become engaged.

Leia graduated from Tuskegee University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal and Poultry Science/Forestry and after moving to Houston Texas, began working closely with domestic dogs in rescues and kennels. Soon, Leia found her place at the Houston Zoo where her career focuses to help build connections with guests to nature and animals and talk about why those connections are necessary.

Alongside professional development, Leia earned an MAT in biology from Project Dragonfly through Miami University in 2019. She drew from her experiences in growing up about the lack of Black representation in the sciences and focused on that for many of her projects and papers. Using the skills that Leia has acquired over the years, her goals include helping to break down barriers in nature and science for Black and other minority children so that they realize they have just as much opportunity to be the world’s wildlife heroes.