From UQ to Zoo Crew

Australia Zoo

BSc (Zoology) 1996
Dip Ed 1997

Minimum $29,000
Maximum $36,000
Average $32,000 p.a. (industry award rate)

WHEN Nick Bell was a child, his response to the oft-asked question "What are you going to be when you grow up?" was always clear-cut.

"A zoo keeper," he would reply – usually to a chorus of laughter from his classmates.

But Nick is now the one who is laughing.

Four years ago, the UQ Science (zoology) and Education graduate realised his childhood dream when he became an education co-ordinator at the Sunshine Coast's world-famous Australia Zoo. His appointment followed seven years teaching high school science in Australia, the UK and the US. Now, Nick's daily life revolves around spreading Steve Irwin's message of wildlife appreciation and conservation, while overseeing the many school group visits to the zoo.

He also runs a school holiday program, where children aged seven-12 have the chance to be zoo keepers for a day. Nick says the highlight of his job is feeling like he's making a difference.

"Getting to work with kids – that's the most gratifying part," he says.

"I get to develop awareness and passion in them, and empower them to make changes. I want them realise that it's the little things they can do that make a difference."

Nick says his time UQ opened his eyes to looking at the world from a broader perspective – something which remains with him in his subsequent career and life.

"It (UQ) gave me a lot of direction and a way to look at the world. It was also at uni when I got really into conservation. It was the place where I grew up and could see that bigger picture."

Nick describes working for Australia Zoo as a "fabulous opportunity".

"Not only is the location inspiring, but I work with such cool people – everyone is here for the right reasons," he says. "I couldn't be happier."