News Release
Contact:   Sondra Katzen, Chicago Zoological Society, 708.688.8351,
June 23, 2021                             

Teen-created Virtual Conference Inspires Conservation in Young People
Three-day event features headline speakers including Jane Goodall, Seth Darling, and more

Brookfield, Ill. — Hundreds of teens from all over the world will have the opportunity to hear from a wide range of inspiring speakers and participate in conservation-themed activities as part of the fourth annual Teen Conservation Leadership Conference (TCLC), presented by the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), in partnership with Lincoln Park Zoo.

Running July 7-9, the teen-created event aims to motivate young people who have a passion for science, technology, and conservation. The three-day virtual conference, themed to “bring the world home,” will feature presentations on a variety of topics, including youth conservation voices, environmental justice, and technology and innovation, from both industry experts and teens across the globe.

“I am so excited to meet other kids also interested in STEM and the environment. It’s an incredible experience to learn from so many conservation leaders, many who I consider personal heroes,” said Kayla Fowler, one of the teen organizers of the event.

Dr. Seth B. Darling, director of the Center for Molecular Engineering and a senior scientist in the Chemical Sciences & Engineering Division at Argonne National Laboratory, and director of the Advanced Materials for Energy-Water Systems (AMEWS) Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC), will be a featured keynote speaker. Pioneering chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall will also participate in a panel answering and discussing teen-generated questions about the role young people can play in environmental activism on local and international scales.

The entire program will highlight the work of emerging conservationists and give attendees the opportunity to hear about community action, research, and more; examine the engineering of new tools—ranging from AI to social media—reshaping conservation practices; and explore the relationship between the environment and social factors, including race, gender, and socioeconomic background.

“The conference is meant to encourage teens around the notion that big, global ideas can lead to impactful, local change,” said Kevin Conley, senior director of education for the Chicago Zoological Society. “Throughout the conference, participants will be introduced to volunteer and internship opportunities that can sharpen their leadership skills and give them the chance to grow in conservation stewardship and more.”

The event is hosted by the Chicago Zoological Society’s King Conservation Science Scholars Program, an innovative program that provides Chicago-area students from diverse backgrounds with opportunities to learn about animals and conservation and prepare for their futures while making a difference in their communities, and the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Conservation Ambassadors Board. King Scholars, who helped plan the conference, participate in 120 hours of volunteer service, which they initiate based on their individual passions and interests. The program currently enrolls nearly 300 students from more than 110 high schools throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.

Registration for the event, which will be held online via the Whova platform, is now open. To attend the conference, participants must be between the ages of 14 and 19 years old. A registration fee of $5 per person per day is required, which will contribute to CZS’s conservation initiatives and programs. This fee can be waived on a case-by-case basis. For more information, including individual and group registration, visit or email

A growing list of expert speakers and youth presenters include:

  • Mary Catherine Hanafee LaPlante, SpeakUp GreenUp

  • Brittany Novick, Marine Mammal Foundation

  • Michelle and Jeremy Muchilwa, Bring Back Lake Victoria

  • Madison Toonder, EarthEcho International Youth Leadership Council

  • Michael Nest, Award Winning Author - Coltan

  • Diego Arreola Fernández, GreenSpeaking

  • Forest Preserves of Cook County Youth Council         

  • Hannah Testa, Hannah4Change

  • Baylee Ritter, Everyone's Collective

  • Cheryl Johnson, People for Community Recovery

  • Ben Ihnchak, Fuzzy Math

  • Selma Sims, Gardeneers

  • Rebecca “Becca” Burks, Mississippi State University /UWIN

  • Tasha Wierza, Lincoln Park Zoo – ZooMonitor

  • Dr. Lisa Lauderdale, Brookfield Zoo (CZS) - Center for Animal Welfare

  • Black Mambas Rangers

  • Omar Magaña, Open Center for the Arts

  • Rachel Bladow, Lincoln Park Zoo - Population Management Center

King Conservation Science Scholars, a program of the CZS King Conservation Leadership Academy, was established with a lead gift from the King Family Foundation. Other current supporters include: The Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Inc.; Baxter International, Inc.; BNSF Railway Foundation; Nalco, an Ecolab Company; S & C Electric Company; State Farm®; and, Wintrust Financial Corporation.

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About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. The zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, and CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit


Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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