Dr. Lukas shows APES classes a way to give back to gorillas

Dr. Kristen Lukas interacts with students during her presentation to the AP Environmental Science classes. After the presentation, Lukas answered any questions students had. “I want to be a zookeeper when I’m older,” senior Brenna Poirier said, “so overall the presentation was really informative.”

For the past five years, Dr. Kristen Lukas, who is the director of conservation and science at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, has visited the AP Environmental Science (APES) classes at LHS. She speaks with students about what her job working with gorillas is like and how students can help save the gentle creatures Lukas is so passionate about. She also touched on what students can do to conserve the environment.

“Dr. Lukas is passionate about her career and believes that education is a huge piece to the survival of animals like gorillas,” APES teacher Mr. Grant said. “I think she has a great presence with students, is an active listener when she is presenting to LHS, and her expertise in the field is second to none.”

Compared to years past, Lukas tried to keep the presentation more open, allowing students to have opportunities to ask questions and immerse themselves in what Lukas had to say.

 “I don’t ever want to give a presentation where I just talk people’s ears off,” Lukas said. ” I want to make people really think about things they may have never considered. I think the best way to trigger these kind of reflections is through asking questions.”

This left students with a better understanding of gorillas, and what they can do to help save them.

I think overall there was a positive reaction to the presentation,” Grant said.  “Several students asked some really interesting questions and the majority seemed to be tuned in to what Dr. Lukas was presenting.”

A few days after the presentation, Lukas sent the classes an advertisement for the “Gorillas on the Line” campaign being hosted by the Atlanta Zoo and the Dian Fossey Fund International.

This campaign encourages students to bring in their old phones to be sent to the Atlanta zoo to be properly disposed of, due to a chemical that’s mined in order to create smartphones.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Lukas
The promotional flyer for the cell phone campaign.

In the case of gorillas, minerals needed to make smart phones and other devices are mined from the same areas that Mountain Gorillas call home,” Grant said. “The higher the demand for smart phones is, the more pressure is applied to Mountain Gorillas and the more tenable their position becomes. It’s as simple as waiting to upgrade and when you do, recycle your phone/device. It’s really that simple.”

Grant has high hopes of students participating in the campaign after seeing how the new format of the presentation got so many more people interested.

 “I think it’s an easy, convenient, and direct method of helping out a species in need. It’s a fantastic campaign.  Doesn’t cost you anything,” Grant said.  “I can’t explain why someone wouldn’t drop an unused device into the Gorillas On The Line campaign recycling bin.”

After being told about the campaign, several APES students have intentions of bringing in their old cell phones.

“It’s interesting that  there is something so simple we can do to help out the gorillas,” senior Chris Tutt said. “I didn’t really realize how much we affect them.”

Photo by Mrs. DeWinkeleer
Senior Sam Fish asks Lukas additional questions after the presentation. Lukas stayed in the room after the presentation in order to give people a chance chat with her if they hadn’t gotten the opportunity.

After the presentation, Lukas was happy with the overall response the students had. She wasn’t looking to make everyone an avid gorilla fan, but give people another opportunity to care for the environment.

“These students clearly clear about the environment and want to be conservation advocates,” Lukas said. “Even if someone doesn’t share the same love for gorillas as I do, we can still make a connection through our cares about nature.

However, Lukas didn’t just have knowledge on gorillas to share. This gorilla expert got in to her field in an nontraditional way, and Grant felt that this could also teach students a valuable life lesson.

Dr. Lukas started off in Physical Therapy but always had a passion for gorillas, so she ended up pursuing a Doctorate in Psychology and now is the head of Gorilla Conservation in North American Zoos,” Grant said. “The road of life often-times takes a lot of twists and turns – find what motivates you and pursue it.”

In the video below, Dr. Lukas explains to the AP Environmental Science classes why she studies gorillas and why it’s important to make sure they are protected.

Video by Mrs. DeWinkeleer