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The Zoologist Barista

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

If you go to the Starbucks at Eastgate in Chapel Hill, N.C., there's a barista who doesn't just ask, how do you want that latte?

CALEB BELL: May I ask you a question, Peter?

PETER: Sure.

BELL: What's your favorite animal?

PETER: Meerkat.

SIMON: Meerkat? The young Starbucks worker will give you a tall, grande or venti full of knowledge, too.

BELL: My name's Caleb Bell. I am originally from Tennessee. I'm also a recent graduate of Mars Hill University with a degree in zoology.

SIMON: We found Mr. Bell in the middle of his shift. He's been working there for the past six months, and he's quickly learned you don't need a classroom to do a little teaching.

BELL: My boss would actually randomly put me on the spot after she found out that I had a zoology degree. And she would have me tell a customer a fact about their favorite animal, and then it kind of just grew from there.

SIMON: He's met customers who love giraffes.

BELL: I know there are different subspecies, but I only know the names of three. You can tell the difference in the three by their spot shade.

SIMON: And, my personal favorite - zebras.

BELL: Let's say a predator's chasing a pack of zebra. If the predator is able to catch one of them, it is not uncommon for the herd to circle that predator to come to the defense of their herd member.

SIMON: Aww. Caleb Bell says he's loved animals since middle school.

BELL: Every time I would come home from school, I'd try to catch whatever was on Animal Planet.

SIMON: Those shows hosted by Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin made him realize he wanted to study zoology and someday host an Animal Planet-style show of his own.

BELL: And the reason I want to do that is because you don't really see a lot of people of color being recognized as intellectuals.

SIMON: So when Caleb Bell becomes a famous animal show host, will he leave all his latte swirling knowledge behind?

BELL: Well, see, I could possibly invite other specialists onto said show, and then we sit there, and I make them coffee as we discuss an animal as the topic of the day.

SIMON: Caleb Bell - watch for him someday soon. But for the moment, in the Starbucks at Eastgate in Chapel Hill.

BELL: Your total will be $7.42. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.