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Collegiate Conservation Program

What is the Collegiate Conservation Program (CCP)?

The Houston Zoo Collegiate Conservation Program is a 10-week internship sponsored by ExxonMobil.  The Houston Zoo is committed to cultivating the next generation of conservation heroes.  Each summer 10 interns are selected to train, learn, and work at the Houston Zoo and regional conservation partners.  For more information, take a look at the internship description below.

2018 CCP Internship Description

In 2018, the internship will run from May 14 to July 20.  Applications are now open for 2018!  Apply by Thursday, March 1, 2018.  

If you have any questions, please contact ccp@houstonzoo.org.


Regional Conservation Partners

Each year CCP partners with over 20 regional conservation organizations to create a well rounded internship.  These organizations are located all over the city and provide interns with a variety of conservation experience through hands on projects and discussions with staff.


Conservation Partner Spotlight: Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend is one of the last remaining wild places open to the public in the greater Houston area. The park is approximately 5,000 acres of prairie, wetland and bottomland forest located in SE Fort Bend County along the west bank of the Brazos River.  Due to its various ecosystems, the park is famous for its species diversity. Thousands of species, ranging from grasses and wildflowers to trees and aquatic plant life, grow in the park. Animal life is just as diverse.  The white-tailed deer is the largest of more than 25 different species of mammals. Other mammals here include feral pigs, raccoons, squirrels,river otters, bobcats, foxes and more.   About 21 species of reptiles and amphibians, including the American alligator, live in the park.  Mild days in the spring and fall or any mild winter day are the best time to view reptiles or amphibians.

2017 interns learning about state park job opportunities from Brazos Bend Park Superintendent Chris Bishop.

An American alligator at Brazos Bend State Park.

Each month we will be spotlighting a different conservation partner that we have worked with in the past.  Interested in working with us next summer?  Contact us at ccp@houstonzoo.org.


What is a typical week like?

Each week of the internship focuses on steps an organization would take in creating a new conservation program.  Take a look at a sample of a week from the 2016 internship.

Feedback from CCP Alumni


“The CCP summer was genuinely a life changer for me. I learned so much about how zoos run on every level – from the directors to the graphic arts departments – about the rewards, challenges, and passion that go into working for a non-profit, about finding my place in a team of people in order to create a successful proposal, and I learned a lot about myself.” – Becca, 2013 Intern

“Being involved with CCP gave me a good base of experience in numerous job fields.  Because of the wide range of projects that we were involved in, such as conservation education, land management, and experience interacting with guests on zoo grounds, I feel that I have many possible avenues to pursue later in life that I already have experience in.” – Haley, 2015 Intern 

“CCP is a fantastic stepping stone for students interested in entering the field of conservation. It showed me all the possibilities the field has to offer and introduced me to a variety of new topics and conservation organizations that have ultimately shaped my interests and career path. Aside from being an excellent resume builder, it taught me how to work as part of team and be creative in my approach to environmental topics.” – Sam, 2013 Intern


Alumni Spotlight:  Zack David

Zack David was a CCP intern during the summer of 2013.  Take a look at his experience in the program and what he is up to now.

What were some of the projects you enjoyed participating in during your CCP summer?
All the work with the Attwaters Prairie Chicken was the most interesting to me. And the time we spent at Big Thicket.

What behavior change, if any, have you noticed in yourself since participating in CCP?
I definitely think one of the biggest ways I grew was in my attitude and perception of small scale conservation. When all you see growing up is Steve Irwin, and big things like Rhinos and Elephant conservation, you kind of lose sight of the scope of conservation. Then when you see small scale conservation, you don’t think it’s as impactful, because it’s not as, for lack of a better word, “sexy.” I think CCP really changed my opinion on this all by making me see how conservation really works at its foundation. Which is a lot of committed people making as big of a difference as they can, at whatever scale they can, which has the collective effort make a big change.

How did your time with CCP shape your future/career opportunities?
CCP had a massive impact on my future career choices. For me personally, as well as for job opportunities. When I took the position, I still didn’t quite have an idea of what I wanted to do after college. I was in school for Biology, not because I was particularly interested in it, but just because I enjoyed science in school, and that was a broad enough subject that I thought it would be able to work into different career paths. CCP gave me a love for conservation that I didn’t know I had. I had never really been passionate about anything in my life before I discovered conservation. Sure I liked animals, and going to zoos was always fun, but I didn’t fully understand the issues facing more than just the largest animals and environments, nor that I personally had the ability to impact and help save it. CCP helped give me a sense of purpose in my life by exposing me to so many facets of conservation, and I haven’t looked back since. As far  job opportunities, CCP helped immensely. The summer following CCP, I interned at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, which I would not have been able to get without my experience at CCP. It’s an incredibly competitive internship, and I was by far the youngest, and seemingly least qualified just based purely on amount of past internships/work.

What are you currently doing to save/protect wildlife?
I am currently working for a non-profit called PDXWildlife, which works on research projects with the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCPG) in China. I lead a small team of interns in a study on behavior in Giant Panda reintroduction candidates. These candidates are kept in massive natural training enclosures in order to keep them as wild as possible, which we then go into and set up camera traps along with novel objects and nonspecific scents. We then analyze their reactions to these objects and scents to determine personality styles and archetypes. Once they are released after a year in these enclosures, we will monitor their survivor-ship and then try to determine which personality styles have the highest survivor-ship upon release. The ultimate goal of this study is to create a protocol for determining which Giant Panda cubs have the best chance at survival in the wild, before they are released.

Are you a CCP alumni that would like to share your experience? Contact us at ccp@houstonzoo.org.

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