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Jackson Thompson named Dickerson Park Zoo director

Jackson Thompson, new director of Dickerson Park Zoo.
Jackson Thompson, new director of Dickerson Park Zoo.

Thompson has worked at the zoo since 2004. He replaces Mike Crocker who served as zoo director for many years.

Dickerson Park Zoo has a new director to replace long time zoo leader, Mike Crocker, who retired this spring.

The Springfield-Greene County Park Board named Jackson Thompson as assistant director of Parks & Recreation — Dickerson Park Zoo, effective Sunday, May 19. The position is informally known as zoo director, according to the park board.

Thompson has been with Dickerson Park Zoo for 20 years, his entire professional career. The 39-year-old started on the staff of guest services in 2004 and has since served in the in the zoo’s Commissary/Missouri Habitat, as Tropical Asia zookeeper, head zookeeper, elephant manager, education ambassador collection manager and superintendent of the zoo. Thompson had served as interim zoo director since Crocker retired in March.

“Jackson’s passion for wildlife conservation and education, coupled with his commitment to Dickerson Park Zoo and its staff, will serve the community well in his new role,” said Jim Fisher, interim director of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, in a news release.

While Dickerson Park Zoo is a division of the Parks Department, zoo operations, programming, funding, member and donor development and even some staff positions are coordinated with the nonprofit, Friends of the Zoo (FOZ), which exists to support the zoo, according to the park board.

Thompson began working for Friends of the Zoo while he was in college. He earned a BS in Biology, with a chemistry minor, from Evangel University in 2006. After graduation, he became a fulltime zoo employee.

Thompson is active in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), through which Dickerson Park Zoo has held accreditation since 1988, according to the park board. He's a member of the Zoo Conservation Outreach Group board and a past member of the national and local chapters of the American Association of Zookeepers. He's furthered the zoo's focus on animal training, enrichment and welfare. He took part in a two-year elephant welfare study with AZA, helped to start Keeper Chats and Elephant Baths education, reestablished the ZooCrew teen intern program and chaired the Diversity Equity Accessible and Inclusion committee at the Zoo.

“It really is an honor to be named the next Zoo Director,” said Thompson in the statement. “The future is bright at the zoo, with the traditions that Mike Crocker left in his 48-year tenure, and with our Park Board and Friends of the Zoo leadership we have set in place. Most importantly, the staff at the zoo has been family to me for the last 20 years, and I’m excited to continue my career with them here at Dickerson Park Zoo.”