Melanie Sorensen is an Interpretive Naturalist at the Minnesota Zoo where she has worked since 1998. During her first three years at the Zoo she cared for a collection of 120 trained animals used for outreach and onsite educational programs. Currently, she develops and teaches the Zoo’s educational programs, which are offered to participants ranging from toddlers to adults, on various animal and conservation related topics. Moreover, Melanie also guides educational zoo trips for high school students to Costa Rica and the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area in northern Minnesota. She has had training in national environmental education curriculum such as Project Learning Tree and Project Wild.
During 2006 Melanie took a one year sabbatical from the Zoo and volunteered for a series of animal conservation and environmental education programs located in Mongolia, Kenya, Fiji and Costa Rica. In Mongolia Melanie worked for the Pallas Cat Conservation Project as a field research assistant and English teacher for two months in the village were the research was being conducted. She then spent three months working for Arocha Kenya, a Christian environmental organization, ringing birds, teaching in the local schools and leading teacher training workshops focused on incorporating conservation themes in the core curriculum. In Fiji, Melanie volunteered for Reef Explorers planting coral in a marine protected area and developing a village’s eco-tourism potential. Finally, Melanie lived in Costa Rica for four months, as a Resident Naturalist for the San Luis Ecolodge and Research Station. This experience led to an exciting opportunity at the Minnesota Zoo. In December 2008 Melanie hosted the first ever sloth symposium. She invited two sloth experts from Costa Rica along with 20 other zoo professional from North American zoos. As a result of the workshop, a sloth husbandry manual was published.
In addition to working at the Minnesota Zoo, Melanie recently began working as a trip leader for an international adventure travel company that incorporates community volunteering with outdoor recreation called “Play It Forward Adventures”. Melanie is a member of Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Minnesota Naturalist Association (MNA) and Minnesota Association of Environmental Educators (MAEE). Melanie received her bachelor’s in Environmental Science from John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas and recently completed a Masters degree in Environmental Education and Natural Sciences at Hamline University in St. Paul Minnesota.