As if attending Cornell Veterinary School isn’t enough to keep her busy, Gabby Wild also has found time in 2012 for a not-so-little side project—changing the way we view endangered species.

By year’s end, Wild’s “12 in 12 for 12” campaign will shed light on a dozen animals facing extinction through an ingenious collaboration with up-and-coming fashion designers. The Boca resident, 23, has spotlighted a different animal each month by wearing an eco-friendly dress created by designers that include contestants from “Project Runway.” (See the different dresses, and learn all about the animals they represent, at her website,

In addition to the campaign, which will culminate in a January 2013 charity auction at the Museum of Natural History in New York, Wild also is doing documentary work for the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival. The former Miss Boca Teen USA, set to graduate from veterinary school in 2016, discusses her passion for animal conservation.

The impetus behind her website/foundation: “The startling fact that made me want to do more for wildlife was this: The International Union for the Conversation of Nature, the organization that determines when a species is threatened, reports that one-third of amphibians, one-fourth of mammals and one-eighth of all bird species are at risk of extinction.

“I get a lot of people who tell me that they would rather support a cause involving humans. And that’s wonderful. But the rationale is narrow-minded. When you destroy one animal, you change the food chain. That changes the way that an environment interacts with itself, and that environment then becomes vulnerable. When that happens, you limit the way humans can interact with the environment.”

Why a butterfly matters: “My poster child for saving the rain forest is the Blue Morpho Butterfly from Central and South America, which has inspired scientists to create dye-free clothing. That’s because the butterfly isn’t blue because of its pigment. It utilizes these grooves on its wings to refract the sun and create the color blue. ... If we cut this butterfly’s migratory path by cutting down the rain forest, it will be extinct in 115 days. That’s how fragile that environment is.

“Why does that matter? Approximately 25 percent of medications from the Western world has ingredients based in the rain forest. Saving that butterfly or like species might also mean saving a part of the rain forest that holds the cure to cancer. I don’t know how people can’t understand that.”