Alumni Spotlight: Leopards & Environmental Law

Author: Rachel Novick

Dayna Zoo

Dayna Smith '14 jumped into sustainabillity work immediately after graduating from Notre Dame with a Biology Major and Sustainability Minor, and has not shied away from new experiences. "I started a master's in biology with a certificate in zoo and aquarium studies in 2014," said Dayna. "I defended this past May with my thesis concerning olfactory enrichment in captive Amur leopards. While completing my master's, I worked as a zookeeper at the Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City and as a carnivore keeper at the St. Louis Zoo."

Along with ND Biology professor Gary Lamberti, Dayna also made headlines recently with the publication of their research on the heavy metal burden of Lake Michigan turtles and their utility as indicators of ecosystem health. 

Dayna has thoroughly enjoyed being a zookeeper, but she will soon be on to her next challenge. "It was fun to interact with guests and teach them about conservation while taking care of amazing animals like Andean bears and African painted dogs. However, I felt that I wasn't making enough of an impact in conservation efforts at the zoos and, after a lot of reflection, I realized that my skills and interests most closely aligned with law school, specifically studying environmental law."

Dayna hopes to one day work with a government agency as an environmental lawyer to help shape environmental policies. For now, every day is a new adventure.