Zack Zdinak

no pronoun preference or declaration

I am gay and I am a wildlife biologist who evolved into a wildlife artist, environmental educator and interpretive graphic designer.//


With a degree in Wildlife Management from West Virginia University I headed out west working in various National Park units (Arches, Canyonlands, Saguaro, Chiricahua) as field biology and forestry technicians, and interpreter. I settled in Flagstaff, AZ for the snow, working for the Coconino National Forest (Hotshot fire crew, wetland mapping, interp), and the US Fish & Wildlife Service studying endangered humpback chub (fish) research in Grand Canyon), and Kaibab Natonal Forest as an interpreter.

I also trained with the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators and National Association for Interpreters to start my freelance business, Life Drawing & Education. My desire to enhance science understanding has lead me to work with parks, museums, historic sites, schools, and tribes – to educate visitors with custom signage, exhibits and publications. Recently I’ve added Paraprofessional work at Flagstaff High School, assisting special needs students in their science classes.

I was fortunate to have my sexual awareness surface in a town relatively accepting of LGBTQ+ people. I came out gradually in the late 1980’s, learning after the fact that there had been 3 closeted gay men on my Hotshot fire crew, and 2 in my USFWS district. A close cadre of hetero men friends supported me in my awareness, trust and commit to myself.

I’ve helped out with local public gay events. In 1997 I met and fell in love with my partner Robert (a lab biologist), developing the sweetest  relationship I had never known possible and shedding shame. Friends, 6 siblings, Mom and work mates embraced him with open arms as well. After 17 years, we live apart now as stronger fiends. Now I’m raising native plants, continue with my natural history art, CC ski when I can, and ponder my elderhood.

Yet I wonder if I had open gay science peers, role models and supervisors (like you here), would I have spent less time hiding and dealing with mental health? I hope my outness helps motivate young people to explore ways they can participate in science inquiry and a welcoming world.

Best wishes everyone in your science careers. Inspire others whether you know it or not. Reach out anytime.

Life Drawing & Education –