Brookfield Zoo near Chicago is offering a virtual lecture series featuring an array of topics about dolphin conservation, connecting children and families to nature and wildlife, and the zoo’s Animal Ambassador program.

The best part for those interested in attending, is they can do so from the comfort of their own homes. Following each presentation, there will be time for a question and answer session. Lectures, which begin at 7 p.m. CT, are free, although a $10 donation is appreciated. Online reservations are required and can be made at Lectures include:

Connecting Children and Families with Dolphin Conservation at Sarasota Bay

March 21 (Tuesday)

If you’ve ever vacationed along Florida’s west coast, you may have had the great fortune of seeing bottlenose dolphins swimming in Sarasota Bay. Many of the dolphins found in this area have been studied by Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program staff, including Dr. Katherine McHugh, deputy program director and senior scientist. Join Dr. McHugh for an enlightening presentation as she shares some of the programs, strategies, and partnerships the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population uses to connect children and families with these charismatic marine mammals. Additionally, she will discuss the dolphins’ underwater habitats in Sarasota Bay and opportunities to get involved in dolphin conservation. Following the presentation, there will be a question and answer session.

Zoo Animal Ambassadors: Creating Memorable Moments through Animal Training

April 4 (Tuesday)

Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Ambassador program is an integral part of the Chicago Zoological Society’s mission of inspiring conservation leadership by connecting people to wildlife and nature. The animal care specialists work closely with a select group of animals to create memorable experiences for guests visiting the Zoo and to the general public at an array of community outreach events. Tim Sullivan, director of behavioral husbandry for the Chicago Zoological Society, will take you behind the scenes to demonstrate how staff use positive reinforcement to train the animals. You may even learn some training techniques to try with your own pets at home.

Connecting Children to Nature and Building Constructive Hope

April 18 (Tuesday)

Connecting children to nature has many benefits—greater health and happiness and a legacy of experiences that inspire active care for the natural world. Yet, young people, who feel connected to nature, can develop a sense of fear and despair in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss. Louise Chawla, professor emeritus in the Environmental Design Program at the University of Colorado Boulder, and who also serves on the Scientific Advisory Council of the Children and Nature Network, will share ways to promote connecting children to nature and at the same time support constructive hope—the ability to acknowledge threats while finding meaning in taking action.

Learning and Growing Through Nature Play: Past, Present, and Future

May 16 (Tuesday)

A little over 20 years ago, Brookfield Zoo’s Hamill Family Play Zoo opened. At the time, it was a revolutionary concept of connecting children and their families with nature through play and exploration. Why was this approach so vital then and why has the field of nature play become part of a global movement today? Join Dave Becker, senior manager of learning experiences for the Chicago Zoological Society, as he highlights past, present, and future trends of nature play, and also reflects on its importance and the impact it has had with guests at Brookfield Zoo and in Chicagoland communities.