Managing Editor

Karen Worley has more than 30 years of experience working in communications, interpretation, publications, and marketing. She previously worked as Managing Editor of Communications and Interpretation for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, where she directed and produced ZOONOOZ magazine, website content, newsletters, social media communications, and fundraising and advertising content. Along with her manager, Debra Erickson, Karen led teams to create, develop, and produce interpretive signs, graphic panels, experiences, and presentations for major exhibits at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Now retired from San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Karen works as Communication Coordinator for the International Iguana Foundation, managing their social media, website content, and newsletters and participating in developing interpretive and messaging strategies. She is also co-founder and president of the non-profit organization The Shape of Enrichment, Inc., which shares knowledge, ideas, and techniques for establishing and maintaining enrichment husbandry programs in zoos and aquariums and communicating about enrichment with the public.

For Wildlife Madagascar, Karen currently serves as Managing Editor, producing content for the website, newsletters, fundraising, program guides, and promotional materials. Her passion is supporting animal and habitat conservation, through education and sharing stories and experiences with a wide variety of audiences. She is excited to contribute to Wildlife Madagascar, an organization that aims to make a real difference in saving the unique and irreplaceable species of this remarkable place.


What draws you to support wildlife conservation and education?
I’ve been interested in animals and wildlife since I was very young. I wrote a little story in crayon when I was five that I titled “The Frog and the Flamingo,” which was about the two animals becoming friends despite being so different, because they shared similarities living in a marsh. My family watched all the wildlife shows that were on TV in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and I loved books that featured animals. One of my first animal toys was a koala that I got on a family visit to the San Diego Zoo. It’s a little moth eaten, but I still have it! I was a literature major in college, and I started my work career as a high school teacher; but when the opportunity came up to work in the publications department at the San Diego Zoo, I jumped at it. It combined all my favorite things. Throughout my career there, my love for wildlife continued to grow and deepen, and I became dedicated to doing what I could to further conservation. I wasn’t cut out to be a researcher, but I knew I could make an impact by educating people through magazine articles, website content, and social media. I strongly believe that awareness and understanding are vital to saving endangered species and habitats—and I love telling those stories.

What about working in communications do you like the most?
Reaching people who might otherwise never experience the wonders of the natural world. Plus, I love to keep learning myself. I love digging into researching a species, place, habitat, science, or conservation topic, because I always discover something I didn’t know. It’s like a treasure hunt for those nuggets of information that will surprise, delight, and inspire people. I want everyone to be as enthusiastic about and awestruck by wildlife as I am. 

What is one of the most memorable experiences in your career?
I’ve been so fortunate to work at a zoo and have the opportunity to meet amazing animals up close—patting a black rhino calf, scratching the neck of a Galápagos tortoise, feeling the bristles on an elephant’s trunk. But I had one experience that may not seem like a big deal, but I’ll always remember it. I was watching several African bullfrogs in their open-air habitat at the zoo one day, when a little girl walked over to see them. She gave a little gasp, and ran to get her mom. I smiled at her excitement. Unfortunately, the mom just took a quick look and said, “Those aren’t real honey,” and walked away. The girl’s face fell. I was incensed. I leaned over to her and said, “Actually they are real. They are African bullfrogs. Aren’t they cool?” She looked up at me and her face lit up. She smiled and nodded. Then she went back to her family, calling, “Hey DAD, come see these big bullfrogs!” Never let it be said that a little information and encouragement can’t go a long way.

Who or what inspires you?
Hope. People who have hope and bring it to others, even under difficult circumstances. One of my favorite poems is by Emily Dickinson: “Hope is the thing with feathers – / That perches in the soul – / And sings the tune without the words – / And never stops – at all -” Things can seem pretty daunting sometimes, especially in a field like conservation, where there are so many complications and obstacles. But hope can carry you through, and it can win the day.

Share with us a book or film that has had an impact on you.
As a literature major and lifelong reader, that’s a tough question to answer. There are so many that have mattered to me, for so many reasons! Staying with the wildlife and conservation theme, though, the first was probably Bambi—both the book and the animated movie. I was completely captivated by the world of the forest and the animals. And oh, when Bambi’s mother died…. Well, there were many tears. I still get a lump in my throat! Another book that both stunned and galvanized me was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. As for many people who care about wildlife, that book was a wake-up call for me about the need for conservation, and the consequences of looking the other way. More recently, I was enthralled by Richard Powers’ The Overstory. He combined so many environmental, ecological, and conservation issues in such a masterful and compelling way, creating such an amazing story. I’d be reading it and come across a sentence or passage that took my breath away, and I’d have to stop for a minute, lean back on the sofa, and just absorb it. I recommend it to anyone I know who loves nature. Or who doesn’t!

What do you find interesting about Madagascar and its wildlife?
Madagascar is one of a kind. It’s such a unique place, with astounding animal and plant species. They fascinate me: how they evolved, the forces that shaped them, how they survive. It would be a tragedy—and a travesty—if any were to go extinct. Madagascar’s wildlife, and its people, are up against some formidable threats. But there are solutions. And that’s why I’m proud to be part of Wildlife Madagascar, because we’re putting together programs that I believe will truly make a difference.