Meet Zoe Gapayao, Houston Audubon’s new Education Programs Manager & Staff Naturalist!

We’re excited to welcome the newest member of the Houston Audubon team! Zoe has been fascinated by environmental conservation from a young age. She spent her early childhood by the ocean and rainforests of the Philippines before moving to south Texas. After scuba diving for the first time at 9 years old, she knew she wanted to devote her future to protecting the natural world. Zoe has a bachelor’s in Biology and Marine Science from the University of Miami and a master’s in International Environmental Policy from Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey Bay.

Her career in nonprofit organizations has ranged from scientific research to environmental education. She’s worked and volunteered to conserve endangered species like whale sharks, sea otters, sea turtles, and Hawaiian monk seals. Zoe first joined the bird world through backyard birding then started working for a World Birding Center location in the Rio Grande Valley. In her free time, she tends to her urban garden and explores parks and trails with her dog. Zoe answered a few questions so we can get to know her better.

1. What’s your job title?

I am the Education Programs Manager and Staff Naturalist. I’ll primarily be at Edith L. Moore and I also get to spend some days at the Raptor Center with the rest of the education team.

2. Do you like traveling?

I love traveling and miss it so much! I’ve been to over 30 countries and every continent but Antarctica. I enjoyed experiencing lots of different places during my backpacking journeys but now I’m learning to travel slower to get a better sense of place.

3. What’s the most exciting part of your job?

I appreciate the quote “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.” Environmental education played a large role in sparking my interest in protecting the natural world as a child. I’m excited to be part of an organization that inspires many young people and adults to be environmental stewards in their communities.

4. Where did you work before this position?

I most recently worked at Quinta Mazatlan for the City of McAllen, which is one of nine sites of the World Birding Center in the Rio Grande Valley. I did nature interpretation and native plant restoration for their Center for Urban Ecology and ran summer camp programming for their education department.

5. What’s your favorite movie?

Stand By Me

6. Do you have any pets?

I have a dog named Thumper. She’s a terrier mix and I gave her that name because of the loud *thump thump thump* her tail makes. She’s been with me for almost 7 years now and she was about 2 years old when I adopted her.

7. Have you ever met anyone famous?

I’ve met Dr. Sylvia Earle a few times. She is a renowned oceanographer and marine biologist who was the first woman to become chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

8. Are you a coffee or tea person?

Tea! Mostly herbal teas.

9. Can you speak more than one language?

I can speak Spanish and 3 (or 4ish) Filipino languages. There are over 120 languages—not dialects—spoken in the Philippines and I love learning new words and comparing them. 

10. What’s your favorite season?

Learning about native plants has made me appreciate seeing them in their different stages throughout every season. Springtime is pretty spectacular but it’s hard to choose a favorite.

Please join us in welcoming Zoe to the Houston Audubon team!

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