Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University is sponsoring a free day at Albuquerque BioPark Zoo April 14 for its alumni and their families.

Located next to the Rio Grand River, the 64-acre zoo has offered guests close encounters with exotic and native animals since 1927. The address is 903 10 St. S. W.

“The zoo is a wonderful resource in New Mexico and always a fun destination,” said Juli Salman, Highlands alumni director. “HU @ the Zoo gives us the chance to connect with alumni from the Albuquerque area and throughout the state.”

Check-in and free ticket pickup for HU @ the Zoo is from from 9 – 11 a.m. at the Highlands Alumni Office table near the front entrance to the zoo. The zoo may be explored until it closes at 5 p.m.

Highlands alumni need to contact the Highlands Alumni Office in advance to reserve their free zoo tickets. Call 505-454-3238 or email

Salman said the response for the first two HU @ the Zoo events in 2016 and 2017 was phenomenal.

“Alumni see it as a great opportunity to enjoy the zoo with their families, and potentially see friends and classmates,” Salman said.

Salman said there’s also an educational component that makes HU @ the Zoo a meaningful experience.

“This year Highlands biology professor Sarah Corey-Rivas delivers an interactive talk for alumni and their families at 12 p.m. titled, “Highlands Research with Threatened Wildlife in the Southwestern Rockies,” Salman said.

Corey-Rivas is a conservation geneticist who established and leads the Molecular Ecology Laboratory at Highlands.

“I will share my research group’s work on boreal toad conservation, a species that is extinct in New Mexico,” Corey-Rivas said. “Boreal toads play an essential role in mountain ecosystems. I’m part of the team of scientists that is working to bring Colorado boreal toads to New Mexico that are more tolerant to a fungal disease that threatens amphibians across the globe.”

Corey-Rivas involved her Highlands biology students in collecting boreal toad eggs in Colorado in partnership with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency. She and her students then researched the impacts of fungal disease on the adult toads they raised in her lab.

“This boreal toad research is exciting because it takes science out of the lab and shares it with conservationists and also promotes conservation education. For example, in 2017, we donated some of our adult boreal toads to four zoos across the nation, including the Detroit Zoo National Amphibian Conservation Center,” Corey-Rivas said.

Corey-Rivas and her Highlands biology students also work on research in her lab with a range of New Mexican species such as black bears, bison, leopard frogs, and garter snakes.

There will be free Highlands items and raffle prizes at HU @ the Zoo. There will also be some Highlands merchandise for purchase.