At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., Ogden combines a background in animal behavior and industrial and organizational psychology to oversee the resort's animal health and welfare, visitor education and science and conservation programs. She manages teams that work with animals at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Epcot's The Living Seas, the Tri-Circle D Ranch at Fort Wilderness and Typhoon Lagoon.
Career Path: Ogden studied industrial and organizational psychology as an undergraduate, which led to a career as an office manager for four years at a sports promotion firm and then a market research firm. But she also had a passion for conservation and animals.
"Part of the reason I went to graduate school is that I wanted to combine my interests of working with people as well as doing something to support animals and conservation," she says. In 1992, she received a doctorate in general and experimental psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a specialization in animal behavior and a minor in management. As a research associate with Terry Maple, PhD, a psychology professor at Georgia Tech and then-director of Zoo Atlanta, she helped design research projects, prepare grant applications and conduct data collections and analyses.
Before coming to Disney in 1997, Ogden worked as the children's zoo curator at the San Diego Zoo, where she supervised employees and designed new exhibits and interpretive materials.
Work schedule: Ogden mostly serves in administrative roles by overseeing the staff of Walt Disney animal-related programs. Her typical day includes budget analysis and other administrative tasks as well as working on initiatives to further Disney's conservation efforts. For example, she oversees programs to get Disney staff excited about animals and the environment, such as by holding an awards event each year to honor staff members who've taken a role in conservation efforts, like starting a recycling program. She aims to help individuals and the organization become more friendly to the environment.
Her team also works with the state of Florida and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on such programs as turtle rehabilitation to release turtles that had been injured in the wild back into the environment following treatment. Likewise, she works with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association on such projects as "The Multi-Institutional Research Project"--which aims to assess the overall impact of zoos and aquariums on visitors' conservation-related knowledge, attitudes and behavior.
Best part of her job: "Probably the best part of my job is helping my team to do their job so we can accomplish the mission," Ogden says. "Our mission is to help inspire all of our guests to care more about wildlife."
Salary: Experts say new PhDs at zoos and aquariums earn about the same as their early-career peers in academe. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wildlife biologists and zoologists working in scientific research and development services make, on average, $54,520 per year.
How you can get her job: Psychologists can become involved in a wide variety of animal and conservation-related careers at zoos and aquariums, such as animal-keeping, veterinary medicine, animal behavior research, visitor research, conservation biology and working as an educator. Ogden suggests students make contacts with professionals in the fields of conservation and zoology by joining professional organizations, such as APA, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, the American Society of Primatologists or the Animal Behavior Society. Students might also opt to volunteer at a zoo or aquarium. "This is a great way to get your foot in the door and also to assess whether this is really a career you are interested in," Ogden says.
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