Head of Center for Learning Innovation
Smithsonian's Conservation Biology Institute
Year zoo career began:
Ricardo is the Head of the Center for Learning Innovation at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo where he leads a team of educators and scientists delivering cutting-edge learning experiences to develop the capacity for conservation action for a wide audience in the DC area, nationally, and internationally.
Ricardo grew up in a small rural town in the Argentinean pampas. His dream was to become a conservationist, but that didn’t exist as a career. He became a veterinarian and earned a Doctoral degree in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. His first mentor was his neighbor, who was also a veterinarian. Ricardo migrated to the United States in 1994 to pursue his dream of being a conservationist. His first engagement in the zoo industry was as a volunteer at the Miami Zoo, which was his “foot in the door”. Since then, Ricardo was a zoo educator in Miami, later ran a conservation capacity development program in Latin America, and then ran an innovative conservation education and training program in the Chicago area, nationally, and globally. He has amassed significant experience in creating, implementing, and evaluating novel conservation capacity initiatives, developing successful collaborations with academia, NGOs, government agencies and communities across vastly different cultures around the world. Some of Ricardo’s most significant were working with indigenous people in Guyana (north eastern Amazon) and farmers experiencing conflict with elephants and large predators in Botswana.
Ricardo’s favorite part of his job is learning from diverse cultures and their ways of knowing. He advises aspiring zoo professionals to be open minded and ready to learn from others. Hard work and reliability are best when you don’t have to explain them, but people know who you are because of your past behavior. Dream bigger and embrace your future even when it’s different from what you had envisioned.