Bradley Smith, Philadelphia Zoo Educator and Overnights Coordinator, speculates that his love of wildlife may stem from his love of Pokémon. He’s an artist, gamer and world traveler with a passion for wildlife and conservation. Trained in biology with an emphasis on evolution and a specific interest in birds and insects, Bradley’s not done learning yet. He is currently enrolled in Project Dragonfly, a Master’s program that focuses on environmental education and conservation globally.
Tell me about yourself, in 5 – 10 words.
I’m a nature nerd extraordinaire.
Ok, elaborate on your passion. No word limit here.
My passion is for the natural world. I am incredibly geeky about this. Even among my peers, I’m told I have a knack for memorizing animal and plant species.
I travel the world as often as I can and before I reach my destination I try to have my field guides memorized. I’m in love with the myriad of forms living things take, how they interact with one another, and how evolution has shaped everything we see.
I have a soft spot for insects and birds, especially. I try to turn my passion into conservation so that I can help educate people about the endangered species of the world.
Besides nature, I’m also geeky about alternative comics, indie music, video and tabletop games, and movies that feature stars, wars, and/or dinosaurs.
How far does that geek flag fly? What do you spend all your extra money on?
I’m definitely a geek, through and through. My friends know me as “the guy with all the nerdy shirts”. Seriously, I have way too many nerdy shirts.
I collect lots of art books and the geekier the better.
I especially love field guides to animals from geek culture. My current prized possession are fully illustrated field guides to the Pokémon of Kanto and the Wildlife of Star Wars.
You’re an Educator at the Philadelphia Zoo. What do you do?
I have been working at the Zoo for 8 years now. I’m one of the Lead Educators in the Conservation & Education department at the Zoo and the lead coordinator of our famous overnight program. That means that I’m often at the Zoo when the gates close and the moon rises, helping our amazing staff lead exciting educational programming. We have hundreds of scouts, families, and even sometimes special adults-only programs.
I’m also involved in many other aspects of my department, with a special flair for creating games and educational guides. I also get to work with our animal ambassadors (my favorite are owls).
Sounds like you love what you do.
I love that it’s always exciting! Animals always keep you moving and thinking, and throwing children into the mix and you’re never going to have a boring day. I find it very rewarding to work at the Philadelphia Zoo because, even among zoos, we are focused on a mission of unified animal conservation and action.
Working in a Zoo is as close to my dream job as I can imagine. I love working with animals and the people that care about them. I would not be surprised if I was working in zoos for the rest of my life, but what exactly I would be doing will probably change over time.
I would love to one day help to lead conservation programming on a more global scale.
What did you study to get there? And you’re working on a graduate degree – Project Dragonfly?
I have an undergraduate degree in Biology with an emphasis on Evolutionary Biology. I also have a minor in studio art. I interned at the Cincinnati Zoo, where I worked in their Insectarium.
Project Dragonfly is an accessible Master’s Program ideal for zoo professionals, conservationists, and teachers. I am enrolled in the Global Field Program, which gives me the opportunity to travel to many locations of wildlife conservation concern.
I have been to the Baja Peninsula and Borneo. This summer I will be going to Kenya. It’s an amazing program that has allowed me to grow professionally in ways I could not have imagined. I have swam with whale sharks and climbed the same trees as orangutans.
I can’t wait to see what else I can find out there in the world.
What do you love most about Philly? About being a geek in Philly?
Philly is an amazing place to live. I have lived in this area most of my life. The city has an outstanding set of cultural institutions, especially for someone as interested in science and art as I am.
It also has amazing food and nightlife and I especially love our music scene right now. Being a geek here is amazing, as well, with a great community of gamers and artists.
I also like getting to be involved with events like Nerd Nite and the Philadelphia Science Festival.
What do you do for fun?
When I have free time, I often paint and draw. I especially like to draw birds and short form comics. My illustrations have made it into a few publications.
I’m also a gamer. Some would call me a Nintendo fanboy, but I would say I love Indie games the most. I play a ton of tabletop board games, as well, and a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. I’m most often the DM, where I have been told I use too many dragons in my world building but I say that I am using exactly the right amount of dragons.
I also attend Cons and you’ll see me at PAX, Wizard World, MAGfest, and more. And yes, I have cosplayed.
What else do you geek out over?
Pokémon. I am a huge fan of the Pokémon games. This may or may not have some correlation to why I decided to work with animals.