National Volunteer Week Volunteer Spotlight: Colleen Chisman

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National Volunteer Week Volunteer Spotlight: Colleen Chisman


Colleen Chisman has been a volunteer at Blank Park Zoo since 2007, volunteering to help the zookeepers with daily tasks in addition to working with the Zoo’s Conservation Alliance. When she’s not giving her time to the Zoo, Colleen lives in Urbandale and works at DuPont Pioneer as a research associate.

Nominated by coworkers to be placed into the DuPont Volunteer Recognition Program, Colleen was recognized by DuPont Pioneer earlier this year for her service demonstrated as a dedicated volunteer to the Zoo. In honor of Colleen, DuPont Pioneer awarded $1,000 to the Zoo.


Colleen and Barnaby, the Zoo's oldest and largest aldabra tortoise

Why did you start volunteering at Blank Park Zoo?

I had a variety of internships while in school [at UNI] and worked with a variety of exotics including big cats, sea lions, beluga whales and spider monkeys. Working with exotic animals is a passion of mine, and I knew I wanted to continue with that. I had wide range of hands-on animal experience, so I could help the zookeepers with their daily tasks.  

Where in the Zoo do you volunteer? 

I volunteer with the zookeepers, but more recently a lot of my time has been spent with the Conservation Alliance. This group reinforces the Zoo’s conservation message and supports a variety of local, national and international conservation organizations. 

One of my own little Christmas traditions is volunteering with the zookeepers on Christmas Day. That day is always a little short staffed, and I know the zookeepers want to be at home with their families, so I like to go in and help them out.  

Why do you love volunteering for the zoo? 

I love animals! It is great that I have found a place where I can work with them. I love the people here also. Everyone is very friendly, and I have made a lot of friends with both the staff and other volunteers. The staff is always very welcoming and appreciative of the volunteers, which feels great!

How do your volunteer efforts help further the Zoo's mission to promote conservation? 

You may be surprised by what a large impact you can make by volunteering in conservation. The impact I make is my favorite part about volunteering. What I do makes a difference to a child on the other side of the world. What the child learns will impact the way he treats the local environment around him…Knowing I can change the world by the little things I do is a great feeling. 

I don’t think a zoo can be a zoo without demonstrating to the public they are dedicated to the message of conservation. The Blank Park Zoo fulfills this role well by supporting both local and non-local conservation organizations, educating the Zoo’s visitors and helping the staff go green. 

What are some specific projects you have worked on? 

A couple years ago, Health in Harmony approached the Zoo for help in developing educational programs for the villagers’ children. Health in Harmony is a group based in Borneo that involves the locals in reforestation projects and educates them about the animals they share the forest with. For Health in Harmony, I led the efforts in finding educational materials, books, crafts and coloring book pages. The Zoo also provided funds in order to send kids to day camps at Gunung Palung National Park. These kids have spent their whole lives within range of an orangutan, but never got to see one until they made the special trip the Zoo was able to provide for them!

I was also involved in properly outfitting the Ugandan Chimpanzee Ambassadors. This is a group of 25 men and women who perform chimpanzee census in Uganda. Before partnering with the Zoo, they had difficulty performing their jobs without raingear or proper footwear. With donations from the Zoo and surrounding businesses, we were able to present each ambassador with a pair of boots, rain gear, first-aid kits, waterproof watches, headlamps and a bike. We were able to make a great impact!

How do volunteers help educate and promote the Zoo's mission?

I would equate our volunteer force to being the Zoo’s ambassadors to the public. Name any Zoo event and you will see a volunteer there. We are always ready to answer questions, whether it be about a particular animal or how to navigate the Zoo.

Many Zoo volunteers are animal handlers –whether at a Zoo event or an off-site educational program, a volunteer will bring one of our educational animals and provide the public with that rich opportunity of experiencing an animal first-hand, providing memories for life!  

Why are Zoo volunteers so important? 

The Zoo really could not be where it is at today without volunteers. There is always so much to be done and so many events that could not happen without them. Volunteers fulfill so many tasks, such as registering guests at events like the Rhino Rampage, helping at kids craft tables during Adventure Days, bartending at Zoo Brew, planting gardens, helping Zoo staff during day camps and handing out candy at Night Eyes. There are even opportunities to do a little office work. The Zoo staff is always looking for help and is always appreciative of the volunteers.  If you have a special interest or talent, the Zoo can use you! 

Interested in volunteering?
Contact Chris Eckles, volunteer coordinator at or call 515-974-2551.

Get started and fill out your volunteer application today!



04/24/2013 9:46 AM |Add a comment
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