Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS)


Applying Existential Sociology (Douglas & Johnson 1977, Manning 1973, Lyman and Scott 1989, Kotarba and Fontana 1984) as a theoretical foundation, this thesis endeavors to formulate first-order experiential understanding of zookeepers. Utilized is a mixed method approach comprising the survey and interview methods to explore zookeeper sense of calling as a moral duty, meaningfulness of work, and the possible connections formed with animals under their care (Bunderson & Thompson 2009, Spreitzer 1995, Wrzesnesweki et al 1997, and Pratt and Ashforth 2003, Hosey & Melfi 2010). Thirty zookeepers completed questionnaires containing measures of sense of calling, moral duty, work meaningfulness and human-animal bonds. Fifteen zookeepers submitted to semi-structured interviews. Results revealed high sense of calling and moral duty among zookeepers. Quantitative analysis of the study variables revealed a moderate positive association between zookeeper sense of calling and sense of perceived moral duty. Sense of calling for the occupation of zookeeper and work meaningfulness were not statistically related (rs (28) = .541, p< .122). Human-animal bond (Hosey and Melfi 2010) was found among zookeepers. Zookeeper connections made with animals under their care were profound and meaningful. This study helps unravel the complexities of sensing a calling to an occupation and the interrelationship between occupationally-based sense of moral duty and perceived work meaningfulness.

Granting Institution

University of Texas Brownsville



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