Walt Disney World Conservationist Speaks to Students about Sustainability Efforts

Andy Stamper, the conservation science manager for Disney’s animal science environment, visited Baldwin Wallace University on March 27 to speak to students about conservation efforts at Walt Disney World in Florida.  

Students learned about what Stamper does for The Walt Disney Company and about the company’s goals to use education to inspire people to work towards conservation. 

Disney’s Team Wildlife, which Stamper is a part of, puts most of its conservation efforts into saving the animals represented in Disney’s storytelling.  

Ten different species are at the forefront of Team Wildlife’s conservation efforts, including the lions in Africa and the coral reefs in Florida and The Bahamas. Stamper’s current work particularly focuses on these coral reefs.  

Coral reefs are particularly important to marine life because they are categorized as a vegetable, an animal, and a mineral. They make up less than 0.1% of the surface area of the ocean, yet they are responsible for 25% of ocean life. 

Coral reefs are made up of coral polyps, tiny animals that are a part of all six domains of the animal kingdom. If the coral polyps are upset in any way by human causes, such as climate change and coral bleaching, the entire reef may become destabilized and start to die.
David Krueger, co-director of the sustainability program, said, “Most of the long-term mathematical projections on climate change suggest that virtually all of the earth’s coral reefs could be destroyed by the end of this century due to primarily the warming of the oceans.” 

In order to rehabilitate the reefs, Stamper and his colleagues have been constructing line nurseries. The scientists take a coral fragment, hang it on a line similar to a clothesline in the ocean, and by the next year it will have grown much better than it would have in the damaged colony.   

“Corals are at the pinnacle of the conflict of nature and climate change,” Stamper said. “Our work tells a story of not only trying to save corals, but also all the things that lead up to having to make adjustments to help save corals in the long run.” 

The Walt Disney Company recognizes that many of the problems facing oceans are byproducts of people visiting the Disney parks. In an effort to limit their environmental footprint, the company has set various environmental goals for 2030.  

The goals include eliminating carbon emissions, reducing waste and minimizing food waste production. There is also an effort to use Disney media and create park activities designed to inspire people to live sustainably and work towards conservation. 

Krueger hopes to bring Stamper back to BW in future years to share more of his experience working with the Walt Disney Company, as well as bringing in other experts in the field of sustainability. 

“Within the sustainability program,” Krueger said, “we always bring in outside experts to help our students understand how to put sustainability in practice, especially in a corporate setting.”