Graduate Puts Growing Interest in Sustainability to Work at Dallas Zoo
Aasya Peera BA’18 spent the spring of her senior year working as an intern at the Dallas Zoo. Interns work 20 to 40 hours a week for up to 12 weeks. They complete an educational project, participate in a service learning project and attend professional development sessions. If you don’t see the video, watch it on Vimeo.
Aasya Peera BA’18 put her passion for sustainability to work this spring, serving as an environmental services intern with the Dallas Zoo.
Peera helped the zoo’s six divisions select and implement sustainability projects such as reducing energy consumption, minimizing chemical use and increasing educational awareness.
“What I like about the zoo is I get to work behind the scenes in facilities management, and with its public outreach for sustainability,” Peera said.
Since earning her degree in interdisciplinary studies from UT Dallas’ School of Interdisciplinary Studies in May, Peera has been working as a camp instructor at the zoo, teaching conservation education for all ages this summer. She hopes to obtain a permanent sustainability-related role there.
Peera gained experience through the zoo’s College Internship Program, which places students in animal care departments, conservation/research efforts, operations and administrative positions. Interns work 20 to 40 hours a week for up to 12 weeks. They complete an educational project, participate in a service learning project and attend professional development sessions.
Peera first learned sustainability practices as an Eco-Rep in Facilities Management at UT Dallas, helping students become eco-friendlier. Eco-Reps plan Earth Week activities, collect data for Recyclemania, build beehives for campus use, plant milkweed plants for monarch waystations, build worm composting bins for use in apartments and residence hall rooms, and make shadow boxes to illustrate what items can be recycled.
All of those experiences with Thea Junt, former associate director for energy conservation and sustainability at the University, gave Peera what she needed to stand out among applicants for the zoo position.
“Definitely all the credit goes to Thea for what I learned in sustainability. Everything they asked me in the application, I had experience in,” Peera said.
“That really amped me up to want to do this as a career. We were able to understand how sustainability really plays a role in everything you do. How much energy does this building consume? What kind of lighting do they use? We looked at everything from that perspective.”
Peera was able to explain how she had helped assess building efficiency across campus and knew how to implement special recycling streams for items such as cardboard, metal, electronics and Styrofoam.
Gary Cocke, associate director for energy conservation and sustainability, said the Eco-Rep program benefits students themselves as they provide education, outreach and project leadership to advance sustainability issues.
“Being an Eco-Rep helps students grow their interest in sustainability while building their skill set and making them marketable as sustainability leaders,” Cocke said.
Peera’s commitment to sustainability began when she started to consume issues of National Geographic, which stoked her fire for global environmental concerns.
“I wanted to be a part of their expeditions and help protect the environment,” Peera said.
When her sustainable communities class took a tour of the campus with Junt, Peera grew interested in the University’s sustainability efforts and pursued an internship with the Eco-Rep program.
“That really amped me up to want to do this as a career. We were able to understand how sustainability really plays a role in everything you do. How much energy does this building consume? What kind of lighting do they use? We looked at everything from that perspective,” Peera said.
Peera comes from a family with a UT Dallas heritage: Her father and two older sisters graduated from the University. Now, she hopes to give back to the community through a sustainability role.
“Internships that are local are so important. I would love to see UT Dallas students stay here and give back to their community,” she said.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].