Make a difference in the natural world and unlock your wild potential

This fall the Phoenix Zoo launched its first-ever Youth Advisory Council! This group of 15 dedicated high school students are behind the creation of our youth engagement and conservation efforts and will play a pivotal role in promoting youth participation, amplifying youth voices and shaping decisions that impact young people. By valuing and including the perspectives of youth, the Phoenix Zoo can create more inclusive, accessible and effective programs and opportunities for teens and young adults, with the ultimate goal of inspiring the next generation of conservation stewards and advocates. 

About the Trailblazers Youth Advisory Council

Trailblazers meet monthly at the Phoenix Zoo and participate in a variety of activities such as:

  • Exploration of current and potential learning and engagement programs to provide input on how to create innovative, relevant and youth-focused programs that align with the Phoenix Zoo’s educational and conservation goals
  • Developing communication strategies for reaching and engaging youth from all backgrounds
  • Being an advocate for the natural world by sharing educational and conservation opportunities and motivating other youth to become involved
  • Helping plan and execute Phoenix Zoo youth engagement programs, such as the ZooTeens volunteering program
  • Leadership and team-building activities to strengthen core professional skills

These dedicated teens have also committed to working outside of our scheduled meetings to work on their projects, meet with their teammates, and complete advisory research/tasks.

Service Projects

Trailblazers don’t just talk about how to get youth connected with the natural world and involved in conservation; they lead by example! 

Trailblazers are working on three service-learning projects for the 2023-2024 program year. Through hands-on work, group discussions, and collaboration with the Phoenix Zoo and other organizations, Trailblazers will tackle real-world conservation challenges, deepen their understanding of environmental issues, and learn to effectively work in a team to achieve a common goal.

What’s an Apple Snail? Invasive Species Awareness Campaign and Removal.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) needs help combating an invasive species of snail that is damaging the ecosystems of our local waters. Commonly called apple snails, this species of freshwater snail feeds on local vegetation and the juveniles of other native snail species and is negatively impacting these ecosystems. The Trailblazers are developing an awareness campaign to inform the community about the harm of releasing pets into the wild and specifically making the community aware of apple snails and what they can do to help combat this invasive species. Trailblazers will also assist AZGFD in an apple snail survey and egg-mass removal in spring 2024.

Powerful Pollinators: Bringing New Life to the Phoenix Zoo’s Butterfly Garden.

Tucked in a secluded area of the Children’s Trail is an enchanting butterfly garden. Not many guests know about this secret garden. Trailblazers are working to give this space a “glow up,” providing additional love, attention and maintenance to the area and to spread the word about this hidden gem. Trailblazers are busy researching butterfly and pollinator gardens, taking the dimensions of the area, and working with the Phoenix Zoo’s Horticulture team to create a plan for what that space needs to breathe new life into it. This includes determining which plants would be best suited for the space, with consideration of what is needed to bring the space up to standards for registered monarch waystations, and how to make the space more accessible and known to guests.

Unleash the Enrichment: Empowering Animal Well-Being.

Behavioral enrichment is the intentional enhancement of the lives of animals in a managed setting by providing them with mental and physical stimulation to increase natural and healthy behavior. Behavioral enrichment can take the form of habitat or sensory changes, cognitive challenges, or simply new food or toys; in other words, adding a little creativity, fun and stimulation to our animals’ lives! Trailblazers are working hard to research the natural behaviors of our beloved Andean Bear, Auggie, and are working with our keepers to understand what Auggie could use before designing a behavioral enrichment plan to elicit a particular behavior.

Are you interested in applying for the 2024-2025 Trailblazers cohort? Join our interest list and stay up to date on the application timeline and process.