Although Karen’s degree is in computer science, she started her animal career working with horses in the Chicago area. She was able to land a volunteer job at the Lincoln Park Zoo working in the zoo nursery, which eventually lead to part-time keeper work. She loved the desert and migrated to California doing a variety of jobs including a stint as a ranger at Joshua Tree National Monument.
A new project in Palm Springs called the Living Desert Reserve was being started and Karen was hired, in 1970, as the first employee with the title resident naturalist. She traveled 10,000 miles studying zoo exhibits and nature reserves in Arizona and Utah. Eventually her title changed to director of the facility. Her interest in small populations and genetics led her to develop the Serengeti cat, which is a recognized breed with the International Cat Association. She continues to be active in conservation and is now working with the Sahara Conservation Fund.