Study on Grief, Loss, and Occupational Stress Among Zoo

Researchers from the Denver Zoo and Colorado State University are recruiting zoo participants for a new study, “What Does Your Zoo Do for You: Reflections on Grief and Loss”, which aims to understand the experiences of zoo employees and volunteers surrounding the death or transfer of zoo animals.  Additional information from the research team is included below, along with the study flyer.

From the research team:

Hello ZAHP Community!

The Community Research and Evaluation Team at Denver Zoo just launched a new study in partnership with Colorado State University on grief, loss, and occupational stress among zoo professionals and volunteers. If you are interested in helping us share our study flyers, the survey link, and/or a QR code with your institution/staff, please contact Shelby McDonald, Director of Research, at [email protected].  

If you’d like to participate in the study, here is the link: 

Why are we doing this study? Occupational stress is a known risk factor for common mental and behavioral health problems (e.g., anxiety, depression). There is growing evidence that animal care workers (ACWs) experience disproportionately higher rates of stress-related mental health problems. Occupational stressors, such as exposure to animal injury, illness, suffering, euthanasia, and death on a routine basis can lead to compassion fatigue, burnout, and mental health issues when ACW well-being is not adequately addressed. Indeed, ACWs consistently report high levels of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, sleep difficulties, exhaustion, sadness, and other negative emotions resulting from their work. All zoo professionals and volunteers work with and/or encounter animals in a variety of unique ways and their experiences have been underrepresented in research in this area to date. Little is known about how zoo/aquarium professionals process anticipated and unexpected losses of animals and associated feelings of grief and loss. To address this gap in research and help our field establish best practices for promoting positive coping and mental health among staff and volunteers, we are recruiting participants for a new study on experiences of grief and loss among zoo staff and volunteers. Any staff member or volunteer can participate in this study, regardless of their role.

Can aquariums participate? We will be collecting data from aquariums soon. We are looking for help recruiting at aquariums as well—feel free to reach out if interested!

Again, please contact [email protected] if you’d like to collaborate!

Thank you.

Study flyer (download pdf):