Ceci’s Conservation Conversation with
San Diego Zoo Global Director of Community Engagement
Ceci is the Chief Conversationalist (CC) for Conservation Conversation.
About Maggie Reinbold
Maggie Reinbold serves San Diego Zoo Global as Director of Community Engagement.
In this role, Maggie oversees and supports the work of the in-house and community-based conservation teams as they design and implement programs that connect communities to conservation for the benefit of wildlife and habitats.
Maggie’s work focuses on strengthening our efforts to enlist local and global community members in the fight against extinction. She works to connect teachers and their students with the science of saving species via our Teacher Workshops in Conservation Science and through the programs of the Conservation Education Lab and Eddy Family Outdoor Learning Lab.
She also oversees course design and instruction for our Advanced Inquiry Program and supports innovative projects that address human dimensions of conservation at field sites around the world.
Maggie’s work involves fostering key partnerships with foundations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to build capacity for high-quality, accessible conservation science education.
Maggie earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biology at San Diego State University, with a focus on the population genetics of desert aquatic insects across the Baja California Peninsula. Maggie has taught science in a number of formal and informal settings, including the San Diego Natural History Museum, Cardiff Elementary School, and San Diego State University.
As an NSF science fellow, she co-taught hands-on science with classroom teachers across San Diego County and also spent several seasons in Arctic Alaska, bringing hands-on science education to unique and underserved communities on the North Slope.
Since early childhood, Maggie has cherished her time spent in nature and looks forward to instilling that same love of wildlife and wild places in her two young daughters.
(This bio and accompanying photos of Maggie Reinbold are from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research website)
Ms. Reinbold, what has been your struggle so far, being the director of community engagement at the San Diego Zoo?
One thing that I have struggled with in my professional life is wanting to do too much too quickly.
I am very much dedicated to saving species worldwide, so when I find solutions that work, I immediately want to widely implement them to do as much good as possible. But I have to remind myself that starting small, examining efforts, making improvements, and continuously evaluating our efforts is extremely important in the long run.
We want to be strategic, so that our solutions are long-lived and our efforts are the best that they can be. It’s been an important lesson for me (both personally and professionally) to just slow down and be very intentional with my time and energy. I’ve learned that this approach does not mean that I’m doing less good work, just that I am doing better good work, if that makes sense!
It feels good to know that you’re working every day to make the world a better place… I love what I do.
Another challenge that I’ll mention about working in the field of conservation is the propensity to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues involved.
I have always been an extreme optimist, so I don’t let this get to me very often, but there are times when you have to remind yourself to just keep working hard on the problems that we face and to not even consider giving up. Some professional fields are less stressful to be sure, but they are also not as inspiring and empowering.
It feels good to know that you’re working every day to make the world a better place.
Ms. Reinbold, when did you decide to work on the effort to save animals from extinction, and why did you decide to work at the San Diego Zoo?
I was inspired by a professor at San Diego State University that gave a lecture called “Fate of the Planet.” It was the first time that I fully realized the incredible (and often negative) impact of humans on the global environment.
I think many my classmates left that lecture feeling depressed and hopeless, but I left feeling very empowered and I knew that day that I would work in the field of conservation and spend my life trying to make things better for plants and animals and humans.
Our mission is to save species worldwide by uniting our expertise in animal care and conservation science with our dedication to inspiring passion for nature.
I chose San Diego Zoo Global because it has been a long-time fixture in my life (I’ve been visiting the Zoo and Safari Park since I was a kid) and I believe in the work that we do here.
Our mission is to save species worldwide by uniting our expertise in animal care and conservation science with our dedication to inspiring passion for nature. And our vision is to lead the fight against extinction. I believe in this organization’s power to make the world a better place for all species.
That is the kind of work that I want to do, and doing work that inspires me is what I want to show to my two young daughters as a life well lived.
Ms. Reinbold, what is your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part of my job is two-fold: the people that I work with and the purpose of our work.
I work with an incredible group of ladies in the Community Engagement team… we nicknamed ourselves the “League of Extraordinary Women” and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
We spend time together inside and outside of the work day.
Some days I am introducing students and teachers to the wonders of the natural world, and other days I am actively proposing new programs to improve the lives of others.
We help each other celebrate events in our lives. We support each other through every step of life’s journey. We have a wonderful work family.
The other favorite part is how I feel like I am making a difference every day.
Some days I am introducing students and teachers to the wonders of the natural world, and other days I am actively proposing new programs to improve the lives of others all around the world.
My work days often vary widely from one day to the next, so I don’t feel like I have the chance to be bored or to stagnate in my work.
Mission-driven work is very engaging and inspiring… I love what I do.
Ms. Reinbold, what are some of the species you have helped to save from extinction, and how did you and your team go about doing this?
In the Community Engagement team, we work on the human aspects of conservation, so we work alongside community members to co-generate solutions to conflicts between humans and the environment (animals and habitats).
In my team, we are currently working with communities in Northern Kenya to reduce pressures on giraffe and leopard populations, while also respecting and supporting the pastoralist lifestyle.
We are working with communities in Northern Kenya to reduce pressures on giraffe and leopard populations, while respecting and supporting the pastoralist lifestyle.
We are also working with communities to better understand the illegal trade of wildlife (such as bear parts and products) in Southeast Asia, so we can better design demand reduction campaigns. We are also working on Hawaii Island to inspire communities to discover and appreciate the ecological and cultural importance of the ‘alala (Hawaiian crow) as it is being reintroduced to native forests.
Here at home, we are engaging local students and teachers with the science behind species conservation, with the hope of inspiring environmental stewardship.
So I guess you could say that the species I work with most is the human species, as a means to promote and support conservation of plants and animals.