Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Paper

Degree Name

Zoo and Conservation Science-BS


Biology & Earth Science


Dr. Michele Acker

First Committee Member

Dr. Denise Hatter-Fisher

Second Committee Member

Dr. Andrew Mills


Animal Care Professionals, BIPOC, Diversity Equity Inclusion Access, Racial Microaggressions, Demographics, Survey

Subject Categories

Community Psychology | Social Justice | Social Statistics


This study explored some potential explanations for the underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) animal care professionals at zoos and aquariums, which is a predominately White STEM field. Using quantitative and qualitative data from an online survey (N = 680), we explored the relationship between BIPOC and White professionals’ perceptions of career satisfaction, racial microaggressions, and sense of belonging in the workplace. In addition, we analyzed qualitative open-ended responses to better understand professionals’ pathways and barriers into and remaining in the animal care field at zoos and aquariums. The findings indicated that BIPOC professionals experience a significantly greater frequency of racial microaggressions than White professionals. Furthermore, through regression analysis, we identified a relationship between professionals who reported a higher frequency of tolerance towards workplace harassment and a diminished sense of belonging. Contradicting other studies, our data shows no significant difference in mean levels of agreement on sense of belonging and career satisfaction between BIPOC and White participants. Resilience and career vs. job satisfaction factors may account for the disconnection between racial microaggressions to career satisfaction and sense of belonging. We highlight future implications for recruitment and retention of BIPOC professionals in animal care at zoos and aquariums.

Licensing Permission

Creative Commons

Acknowledgement 1


Acknowledgement 2


Available for download on Friday, January 19, 2029