Published 7/2019

Brookfield AAZK – Professional Member

BZ Herps & Aquatics Keeper

When you visit Brookfield Zoo, if you want to visit some of the animals that Jeff Bocek cares for, visit The Swamp, Feathers & Scales, Reptiles & Birds, The Coast, Habitat Africa the Forest, or Habitat Africa Kopje.  Quite a few locations . . . right?

Jeff, will freely admit that his schedule definitely keeps him in shape as he travels around the zoo working with and caring for all shapes, sizes, and species of Herps. But that it just fine with him because he truly loves the diversity of his assignments and the ability to create different habitats for the animals under his care. In fact, those are only two of the reasons Jeff became a keeper. He also enjoys being an educator, field biologist, artist, and researcher just to name a few. In Jeff’s own words, “it is an all-in-one position” of all the things he loves.

After graduating with a B.S. Zoology, Biological Aspects of Conservation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jeff worked as a seasonal keeper at Brookfield Zoo for about 1 ½ year. From that position he moved to continue his career as a Herpetology Keeper at Houston Zoo for three years. There he honed his skills working with caring for numerous species of venomous snakes, crocodiles, monitors, and Anegada Island Iguanas. Wanting to be back home with family brought Jeff back to Illinois and Brookfield Zoo where for the last 4 years Brookfield Zoo has benefitted from Jeffs acquired knowledge and training to become a full-time Keeper in the Herps & Aquatics department.

While working at Houston Zoo, Jeff became aware of the American Association of Zoo Keeper organization and joined the Houston Chapter. Why did he join? “I joined AAZK to expand my knowledge, experiences, and impact. AAZK is a great place to expand professionally and a great practice ground for trying out new skills i.e. management.” After he made the move back Illinois and Brookfield Zoo, he kept his eye out for information related to the Brookfield AAZK chapter. He joined and has been a member for three years.  Jeff decided to definitely try out those management skills he mentioned, by becoming Brookfield AAZK’s Treasurer in 2018. A position that he holds for 2019 as well.

Jeff currently holds a position as a committee member of National AAZK’s Resource Committee (ARC). The mission of this committee is to provide AAZK chapters, members, and institutions with the tools necessary for elevating the animal keeping profession and the zooquaria field as a whole. The goal of this committee is to research, identify, and assemble the necessary tools to establish AAZK members as leaders in the zoological field.

He also uses his personal love for research in another very productive way that benefits all the members of the American Association of Zoo Keepers by presenting papers at two of the National Conference of AAZK; which by the way is his favorite event! With the conference moving to different zoos every year, it has allowed him to visit other zoos. At these conferences he has been able to expand his knowledge on current animal husbandry practices, animal training, behavioral enrichment and attend professional certificate courses and workshops.

In 2014 Jeff contributed to the 41st National AAZK conference in Orlando, Florida where he presented “Utilizing Operant Conditioning with an Aggressive Anegada Island Iguana (Cyclura pinguls): A tale of Targeting and Desensitization to Touch”. He followed that up four year later in 2018 when he presented “Inception to Innovation: A Turquoise Dwarf Gecko Breeding Program” at the 45th National Conference of AAZK in Denver, Colorado. Impressive to say the least!

Adding to his impressive resume, Jeff was the recipient of the 2016 – 2017 Emerging Zoo Professional Tuition Scholarship. This was one of two scholarships provided by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that are presented each year to worthy applicants to cover tuition to any non-management related AZA course. Applicants are evaluated and chosen by the AZA Professional Development Committee.

So, what does Jeff like to do in his “down-time”. Well that love of creating things does not stop. He enjoys any activity where he can create something. Graphic design has recently been one of the ways that he can accomplish that goal.

So the next time you visit Brookfield Zoo, perhaps you might be able to catch up with Jeff as he moves from building to building to building performing a job he loves at a zoo that allows him to use all of the many talents he possesses. The members of Brookfield AAZK are proud and happy that he has joined our ranks and has become an active and productive member that benefits everyone in the organization.