New Director of Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium grew up in a zoo of his own

As a child growing up outside of Chicago, Dr. Jeremy Goodman lived in a house that looked like a zoo.

The menagerie included snakes, turtles, birds, guinea pigs, lizards, hermit crabs, and other creatures large and small.

“I have had a lot of pets,” he says, “but never a dog or a cat”.

These days, the new manager of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium shares a Squirrel Hill home with his wife and kids… and a few fish and a cockatiel.

In August, after an international search for a successor to longtime director Dr Barbara Baker, the board of directors of the Zoological Society of Pittsburgh announced Goodman’s appointment.

He officially took the reins on October 1, making him the eighth manager since the establishment opened in 1898.

Goodman says it’s his dream job.

“It was a good game,” he said. “Personally, I loved and my family loved what the city of Pittsburgh had to offer us. Professionally it’s a bigger zoo than the one I was in, but it’s still quite small where the staff are like family. It is important to know and understand the people you are leading.

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

Goodman previously served as executive director of Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island, where he is credited with reinvigorating the country’s third-oldest zoo since arriving in 2013. He bolstered the zoo’s financial position by researching new ones sources of income through public funding, grants and campaigns.

He also helped improve the finances of the Turtle Back Zoo in Essex County, New Jersey, and the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, Indiana. Goodman received his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Tufts University.

One of Goodman’s primary goals in Pittsburgh is to help the zoo achieve national accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), which Goodman calls the gold standard. There are over 2,000 animal exhibitors nationwide that are licensed by the US Department of Agriculture. Only about 200 of these facilities have AZA accreditation.

For more than 40 years, AZA has been the main accreditation body for zoos and aquariums. The organization’s rigorous, science-based, publicly available standards examine the overall operations of a zoo or aquarium, including animal welfare, veterinary care, conservation, education, customer services, physical facilities, security, personnel, finance and the governing body.

The Pittsburgh Zoo is accredited by the Zoological Association of America.

Goodman also wants to spotlight work that goes unnoticed at the zoo, such as his dedication to restoring coral reefs and conserving wildlife around the world. The average visitor may not be familiar with the Sea Turtle Second Chance program at the Highland Park facility or its 1,000-acre International Conservation Center in Somerset County, where a female African elephant calf is cared for.

Check out the Asian Lantern Festival at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium until October 30. Photo by Kristy Locklin.

Currently, Goodman is focused on the human side of things: organizing staff meetings, trying to get up to speed on each department, reaching out to donors. But there are times when he’s reminded that he doesn’t have an average job.

The other day he was going backstage at the Lion and Leopard Building, watching the early morning light bathe the big cats.

“Veterinary medicine has always been a way for me,” he says. “As far back as I can remember, all I ever wanted to do was run a zoo.”

Association of Zoos and AquariumsDr. Barbara Baker Dr. Jeremy Goodman Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium Roger Williams Park ZooZoological Association of AmericaZoological Society of Pittsburgh

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