Ep. 81 Lions, Tigers, Bears, and Books with Katy Morrison


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When I say the word “zoo” your first thought is probably elephants or giraffes; maybe a great memory of going on a school field trip or of taking your own children there for a special outing. A word you probably don’t associate with a zoo is “Book club”. But our guest today, Katy Morrison, a zoo educator at the Louisville Zoo, wants to broaden your vision a bit. At the beginning of the pandemic, she was brainstorming ways that the zoo could still serve its patrons virtually, especially adult patrons who are often not the focus of zoo outreach. And then she read a book on primates that she was dying to talk about with someone. So she pitched the idea of the Conservation and Conversation bookclub to the zoo and it was soon full steam ahead for her vision of non-traditional education through book discussions.

Katy uses her liberal arts background in history and classical studies to explore conservation issues through non-fiction books. While the book club makes the hard sciences more accessible to non-scientists, it is still challenging enough for those with more scientific backgrounds. The concept of conservation is a broad one that can include the most obvious for a zoo; animal conservation, but can also include things like cultural conservation, sustainable agriculture through the lense of cookbooks, and green burials.

Each month, Katy moderates the book discussion, sometimes with special guests, and sends the participants a guide with additional links and resources so they can continue the conversation with family and friends through things like podcast links, related reading for younger readers, and suggested documentaries. And of course one of the wonderful things about a virtual bookclub is that you don’t have to be in the same city as the zoo. In fact, Katy was inspired by a bookclub she joined virtually at an aquarium in New Jersey.

Katy talks to us about the fantasy books she was crazy about as a child where the protagonists could talk with animals, why many organizations are starting book clubs during the pandemic, and which decidedly non cuddly creature at the zoo is her favorite because of a project she did in 3rd grade.

Books mentioned in this episode:

1- Tortall Universe series by Tamora Pierce 2- The Wild Magic series by Tamora Pierce 3- Harry Potter series by J.K.Rowling 4- The Polar Affair by Lloyd Spencer Davis 5- Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia by Christina Thompson 6- Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty 7- Smoke Gets In My Eyes by Caitlin Doughty 8- The Big Burn by Timothy Egan 9- Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani 10- Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson 11- No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg 12- A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough 13- Far From the Tree by Robin Benway 14- The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan 15- The Pocket Change Collective series (This is What I Know About Art by Kimberly Drew) 16- The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food by Marcus Samuelson 17- You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe

Podcasts mentioned: Ologies by Alie Ward

Documentaries mentioned: 1- A Life on Our Planet 2- Making Of (videos) 3- My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)

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