For the first time in more than two years, the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo will have a director, Division Manager Linda Craighead announced Monday.
John Aikin, a passionate wildlife conservationist from the San Francisco Zoo, began work Monday, said Molly McAuliffe, development director of the Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo.
"I thought John had the strongest vision and leadership skills that could help merge the Friends and the city organizations," McAuliffe said. "He has the talent to take us to the next level."
In a statement, Aikin said a junior museum had profound effect on him as a child.
"The people in these institutions inspire and mentor the community in an exploration of science," Aikin said. "I am thrilled to come to the Palo Alto Museum and Zoo at a time when it is upgrading its animal facilities to become more like natural habitats, beginning with the bobcats."
Aikin and Craighead were not available for comment Monday.
At the San Francisco Zoo, Aikin created a breeding and release program for birds of prey. For eight years, he served as the zoo's curator of planning and design where he managed about $92 million of construction projects, according to the release.
Since 2006, Aikin has been the zoo's director of conservation, traveling worldwide to promote policies and programs to preserve wildlife.
All children should have the opportunity to experience the "joy and wonder" of the natural world, Aikin said in the statement.
"The Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo serves as an important portal to a wider and wilder world."
Former director Rachel Meyer left the zoo in February 2006; she is now director of Coyote Point Museum in San Mateo. Zoo curator Rob Steele has served as the interim director, McAuliffe said.
View the press release (PDF)