Research

While we are proud of how far the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has progressed since its beginnings as a Victorian zoo, we are always looking for ways to improve our understanding and care of our animals. Read below to find out who does research at the Zoo, how you can apply to complete your own research here, and how you can support our research. Studying animals isn't just for adults. Kids and teens interested in a career in the sciences can find out how they can join the Zoo's research staff. You can learn more about the conservation efforts of the Zoo on the At The Zoo: Sustainability page, Beyond Our Own Backyard page, At The Zoo: Animal Conservation page, or return to the main Conservation page.
  • Why conduct research at a zoo?
    • Zoos have evolved from recreational facilities into conservation organizations. Almost every aspect of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has changed.

      Old-fashioned zoos:
      •Animals housed alone in barren cages
      •Focus on ease for visitors (short walking distances, many different types of animals)
      •Animals captured from the wild
      •Experience unpleasant for the animals

      Modern zoos:
      •Animals live in normal social groups and natural settings
      •Focus on promoting animal welfare and conservation
      •Animals bred at the Zoo
      •Experience better for the animals

      Research is essential to gather the information we need to make good conservation and management decisions. For example, in order to give our animals naturalistic settings, we need to know what their habitat is like in the wild. Our research requires work both at zoos and in the wild.
      The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium embraces this new philosophy and has a vigorous conservation and research program.
  • Who conducts Zoo research?
    • whoZoo staff and outside scientists conduct research at the Zoo. Qualified investigators, including graduate students who have projects that would be appropriate to conduct at the Zoo can contact us to request application information.

      Please note that at this time, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is not accepting applications for research.
  • Support research
    • support1Make an investment in wildlife and an investment in the future of our planet by donating. If you would like to donate to the conservation research efforts conducted by the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, please mail in your donation to the address below.

      Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
      Attn: Conservation Research Donations
      One Wild Place
      Pittsburgh, PA 15206

  • Apply for research at the Zoo
    • apply2Please note at this time, the Pittsburgh Zoo is not accepting applications for research.
      The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium considers research projects involving basic or applied science. All such projects are considered, but sometimes resources are a limiting factor. In such times, we use the following priorities (from highest to lowest) to rank projects:
      • Greatest conservation impact;
      • For onsite projects, most local involvement, preferably with the locals in decision-making positions rather than support or aid positions;
      • Staff growth possibilities (for example, projects initiated by or involving keepers or other staff); and
      • Projects involving animals in our collection.

      Zoo staff or outside investigators may initiate projects. Please note that while we encourage our keeper staff to be decision-makers in research projects, they must still be able to complete their normal duties without disruption. 

      If approved on scientific and conservation merit, our Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) will review proposals that involve more than normal husbandry procedures to ensure that our subject animals are treated ethically.
  • Kids Research
    • kidsciThe animal experts at the Zoo conduct lots of important research about animals, and now kids can help too. 

      KidScience (Grades 6-8)
      Middle school students can spend a year learning conservation biology methods and principles through the KidScience program. Students become part of the Zoo’s research team and get hands-on experience doing real animal behavior research. Students will gain a strong foundation in research methods and skills, cooperation, teamwork, environmental stewardship, and exposure to science-related careers. Activities include:
      • Classroom lessons
      • Data collection and analysis
      • Behind-the-scenes tours
      • Research projects
      • Field trips
      Click here
      to learn more about KidScience.

      Zoo U. (Grades 9 – 12)
      Students take an in-depth look at current research and theories in the fields of zoology, biology, ecology, and more. We designed our Zoo U program to fit into teens’ busy schedules, and classes are designed to be hands-on and challenging.
      Click here to learn more about Zoo U. 
  • PPG Conservation and Sustainability Fund
    • ppg2The PPG Industries Conservation & Sustainability Fund is designed to further the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s mission of promoting conservation education. Through this fund we award grants between $1,000 and $3,000 to chosen projects. Over the past decade we have funded over 100 projects in 40 countries and two oceans. Please check back in the coming months for important dates for the 2015 grant cycle and for applications.

      What we fund:
      We particularly encourage field studies and cross-disciplinary approaches to conservation, but we will consider a wide variety of projects. Those who wish to conduct a project outside of the United States must present evidence of strong local involvement.

      What we do not fund:
      • Visitor surveys;
      • Husbandry projects;
      • Training (except for foreign researchers);
      • Travel (except to bring foreign researchers to meetings);
      • Organizational overheard costs; and
      • Salaries/stipends for graduate assistants (except for locally hired support staff in non-industrialized countries).