Beth Armstrong began her career in the zoo field as a keeper at the Columbus Zoo eventually working her way up to head-keeper of gorillas. While simultaneously working as a keeper, she became increasingly involved in building the zoo’s support of in situ conservation culminating in becoming the first Field Conservation Coordinator at Columbus. In 1995, she co-founded the first ZACC (Zoos and Aquariums: Committing to Conservation) conference. Since then she has advised and helped organize the last twenty-five years of ZACC conferences. She is currently the chair of the ZACC Steering Committee. www.zaccconference.com
In 2016 Beth founded the “Finding Your Voice: Inspirational Stories from Women Who Protect Wildlife and Wild Places.” FYV is a two-day conservation summit bringing together university and high school students, zoo personnel and reps from NGO’s and field-sites in order to mentor the next generation of conservationists through stories and life experiences. Denver Zoo hosted the 2018 FYV and in 2019 Otterbein University once again partnered with Beth to co-host the 3rd FYV in Columbus.
Running through all of Beth’s work is the power of stories to affect change – whether they are the stories of the individual gorillas she was privileged to work with or creating platforms for the researchers, community organizers, in situ educators to share their stories. She believes firmly that our stories define us, they matter and they have the ability to change the world.
Beth’s new book Voices from the Ape House published by Ohio State University Press was released in March of 2020. It is the story of a young girl that grew up playing outdoors, that loved nature, animals and books and how that same girl eventually found her way to zoos and working with gorillas. It is about being fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time with the right people – when seismic changes were needed within the zoo world. But at its heart the book is really about the gorillas, their individual personalities, their daily lives – their humor, their gentleness, their sorrows and joys.