Tara Caughlan

’16 MA Environmental Studies

Tara Caughlan sitting on a mosaic staircase and in grad gear..

Gold and blue quote mark divider.

I met so many amazing students and staff at SJSU. In the environmental studies program, I was surrounded by people who wanted to make the world a better place. And I got to take some great extra classes—everything from music to dance to martial arts. It was great to test different subjects, many of which I keep with me today. 

I met one of my two best friends at SJSU. He wasn’t in the environmental studies program, but he thinks about how his actions affect the planet more than anyone else I know. 

I now work at the San Francisco Zoo, which is dedicated to conservation, both local and distant. In my graduate program, I worked with students who wanted to help the native western pond turtles, and red-legged frogs. Now at the zoo, I get to work with people who breed and release hundreds of these animals. Every day at work, I talk to people who care about the zoo animals, nearly all of which are threatened in the wild. Zoo breeding programs help preserve these species, some of which are extremely rare, or in one case, completely gone from the wild.

My favorite story is about the Mexican Gray wolves. At one point, there were only seven left on the planet. The number is better now, but it is still very low. The zoo has three Mexican gray wolves, and their sisters were returned to the wild, and had puppies! Staff also work directly with conservation groups, which are helping animals in the wild. 

My studies at SJSU helped me see the plight of animals in a much larger context. When I’m talking to guests, I can tell them fun things about animals, but also what must be done to keep them from disappearing. 

Although my graduate project was technically a science program, I was lucky enough to be able to do a creative project. I’m a writer, so I wrote a work of environmental fiction. I’m still writing. I always manage to include some sort of environmental themes in my stories, and I could not do so without everything I learned at SJSU.

I hope to continue teaching people about amazing animals, and writing stories to inspire people to act. After all, it will take all of us to tackle these huge problems. We’re all in this together. 

Thank you, SJSU!