Hi! My name is Julia Benzel, and I am so excited to be the new Zoo Education Manager! Animal care and conservation education are my passions. I began volunteering as a JZK at Miller Park Zoo in sixth grade. As I aged through the program, presented informal programming, and assisted the Zookeepers with animal care. I began working as an MPZ Seasonal Educator after graduating high school. This is when I started teaching camps, classes, and ZooToYou programs, as well as ZooKids, Zoo Safari camp and Animal Adventure Camp. I graduated from Illinois State University in 2018 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences as well as a Spanish Minor. In 2019, I began working as a Seasonal Zookeeper in the Children’s Zoo, Rainforest and ZooLab areas here at Miller Park. Between 2019 and August of 2021, I balanced working as an Environmental Educator at the Sugar Grove Nature Center an Animal Keeper at Wildlife Prairie Park and Part-Time Zookeeper at Peoria Zoo until I accepting a fulltime zookeeping position at Miller Park Zoo. I accepted a full-time zookeeping position at Miller Park Zoo in 2021.
For the past 1.5 years I have been working in the Cats and Rainforest areas as a Southside Swing Keeper. I primarily cared for Sally the American alligator, Rojo the Sumatran tiger, Hima, Sage and Shree the snow leopards, Cho, Kuantan and Taizo the francios’ langur monkeys, Feta and Colby Jack the pygmy slow lorises, Romeo and Enrique the Saki monkeys, Fauna the prehensile-tailed porcupine, the two North American river otter Rhett and Tallulah and MANY more!
Now, transitioning back to working in Education and coordinating the JZK program, I hope to make this program a place for our Junior Zookeepers to feel as safe and as comfortable as I did being the “nerdy science girl” growing up here. It is extremely meaningful to return to my roots and be a part of the JZK program! It was instrumental in my career path and desire for working at not only any zoo, but THIS zoo.