Up Close with Garrett Heidrick (CU '16)
The inspiration for what Colorado Evans Scholar Garrett Heidrick hopes will be his life’s work found him at the Denver Zoo.
As a boy touring the zoo’s primate exhibit, Garrett found himself transfixed by the monkeys and apes.
“I remember always going there first and spending an hour just watching everything they did,” he said.
It wasn’t until Heidrick, who caddied at Cherry Hills Country Club, earned the Evans Scholarship to the University of Colorado that he began considering a possible career studying the same animals that captivated him as a child.
As an ecology and evolutionary biology major, Heidrick plans to study primates in the hopes of conserving them for future generations.
We talked with the Englewood, Colorado, native about his unique choice of major, his interest in primates and his future plans.
Q) What do you think piqued your interest in the study of primates?
I’m an outdoors person. I’ve always enjoyed fishing, hunting and camping. So, naturally, I have an interest in the environment. A lot is happening in the world right now – deforestation, climate change and population growth – and I wanted badly to do so something about it. I guess studying and protecting primates is my way of doing something.
Q) What is your earliest memory of wanting to study these animals for a living?
I was about 12 years old when I first remember being really drawn to the monkeys—the “Primate Panorama”—at the Denver Zoo. I remember always going there first and spending an hour just watching everything they did. They were so fascinating that I literally could not take my eyes off of them. I never really thought of conserving them at that age. I think that came as my education grew. My first memory of wanting to study primates was during my first biological anthropology class at CU.
Q) What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the survival of primates and what do you hope to do to combat those challenges?
The biggest challenges that are facing primates today are deforestation and illegal hunting of ‘bush meat’ for the black market. To combat these issues I think we have to work with local populations and other groups to stress the use of sustainable environmental practices like using less wood.
Stopping the harvesting and sale of ‘bush meat’ is a little trickier. I think environmental groups and researchers will have to partner with local governments and trips to altogether eliminate the bush meat trade. Some bush meat is actually relied upon by some for sustenance, but most of it is used in voodoo rituals. That the use of this illegally harvested meat is so engrained in the culture makes the killing of monkeys and apes hard to stamp out. However, the Jane Goodall Institute is already making a lot of headway in this area. I hope to join their efforts.
Q) What would you say is your dream job?
My dream job would to be working for the government or for a (non-governmental organization) that focuses on conservation. Lately, I have been giving serious thought toward becoming a professor. In this role, I teach the next generation of conservationists, as well as work on research of primates.
Q) What are your plans upon graduating from CU?
My plans after graduating from CU are to go to graduate school. I have applied to Duke, University of Illinois, and University of Texas.
Q) How would you describe your experience as an Evans Scholar at CU and what have you gained from it?
In the simplest way, being an Evans Scholar changed my life because I didn’t have to pay for college. The Evans Scholarship took this enormous financial burden off myself and my family, and that is a tremendous gift. Being an Evans Scholar also introduced me to new people who have helped shape me into the person I am today.