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Featured business person: Ryan Gulker

  • Published Thursday, June 7, 2012, at 12 a.m.

Ryan Gulker

Deputy director, Sedgwick County Zoo

Gulker didn’t need a travel website to tell him the Sedgwick County Zoo ranks among the top 10 in the country, as TripAdvisor did last week.

He’s visited about 100 zoos himself.

“I can tell you it ranks as high as some of the best zoos in the country,” Gulker said. “From a visitor’s perspective, there’s almost not a better zoo to visit.”

That was one reason why Gulker returned in April to the zoo where he had his first job as a zookeeper.

Having family close by was the other consideration.

“When you live around your family your whole life and then suddenly they’re not there, it makes it harder,” he said.

Gulker, 48, moved around quite a bit as a child because his father was in the military.

They settled in the Junction City area when he was 12. Gulker went to Kansas State University, intending to get a degree in wildlife biology. That changed to life sciences after he visited Manhattan’s Sunset Zoo on a class trip.

“I was really with impressed with the education and conservation aspects of the zoo,” he said. “I thought, man, this is what I’d like to do.”

After serving an internship at Sunset, Gulker worked for the Sedgwick County Zoo for six years. He returned to the Sunset Zoo for 14 years, worked briefly as director of the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minn., then spent five years as the living collections manager at the San Antonio Zoo & Aquarium.

At the Sedgwick County Zoo, he supervises staff who care for the animals, and he oversees the education, graphics and interpretive programs.

Gulker and his wife, Devan, have two sons: Case, 13, and Graham, 9.

He said the family likes to do “all the typical things that families who like the outdoors do” – including camping, fishing, bird-watching and gardening.

Joe Stumpe

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