Associate Director for Animal Care - Smithsonian Institution

Posted: 26 July 2022 | Full-Time |Washington, DC, United States 


The Associate Director for Animal Care participates with and assists the Director in planning, development, direction and management of National Zoological Park and Conservation Biology Institute (NZP/SCBI) animal management and care programs and activities at the campuses in Washington DC and Front Royal, VA.  S/he is a member of the Director’s Senior Management Team, which advises and assists the Director in the overall governance of the Zoo, encompassing all program areas.


In cooperation with the Director and the Senior Management Team, assists and advises the Director in formulation of policies, program goals and objectives. Assists in the development of short- and long-range plans to accomplish these objectives. Collaborates with heads of departments and offices to translate these plans into specific programs and projects, and monitors progress and accomplishments. Works with NZP/SCBI staff to implement the Zoo’s strategic plan, develop a long-range animal collection plan that integrates the husbandry and scientific expertise of the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and is incorporated in the facility and programmatic Master Plans.

Ensures the safety, security, welfare of animal care staff and the collection. Maintains the highest safety standards and stays abreast of changes in best practices of animal management and introduces new protocols where appropriate. Reviews existing protocols and best practices and ensures that staff is properly trained and can perform duties in the safest and most effective manner for the care of the animals as well as the staff, volunteers and visitors.

Follows the work of the Zoo’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee(s) as it relates to the Rock Creek collection. Tracks findings of the Committee to closure, and facilitates discussions on animal welfare concerns among the staff. Regularly inspects animal care facilities to help preclude findings by the USDA, IACUC and/or AZA. Ensures that NZP/SCBI is AZA accreditation ready at all times and oversees the AZA Accreditation application and inspection processes. Seeks the necessary support to correct areas cited or where there is an anticipation of a citing. Ensures that humane care and welfare of wildlife prevails in all aspects of the Zoo’s research operations, while maintaining sound biological and scientific practices of population management and studies, both in the wild and in captivity. Ensures compliance with Zoo Directives, Smithsonian Directives, AZA Accreditation Standards and all applicable local, federal and other laws and regulations.

Integrates the skills and contributions of the Zoo’s animal management staff with the public exhibit and education programs. Ensures that the public experience is optimized by being able to view animals consistently on exhibit while not negatively impacting animal welfare. Works closely with the Guest Services, Exhibits and Education departments on appropriate messaging for both interpreters and keeper demos and other public interactions, including any travelling or temporary exhibits.

Coordinates the relationship between the Front Royal and Rock Creek collections. Works on a consolidated collection plan and works with Planning department and Smithsonian Facilities to ensure adequate and appropriate facilities for the living collection. Coordinates closely with the SCBI Deputy Director on scientific activities that support or use the Zoo’s living collection.

Establishes budgetary priorities for the Zoo’s animal management requirements and related programs to carry out the goals and objectives established by the Director and Smithsonian management. Works with the Director, animal management staff and NZP advisory boards to develop and promote these programs and to obtain funding from a variety of sources to carry them out, including Federal appropriations, Smithsonian grant programs, endowments, other agency funding programs, gifts, foundation grants and contracts. Works with the Clinical Nutritionist in developing a cost-effective plan for production of quality hay, browse, and other animal feeds that meet the requirements of the collections at both Rock Creek and Front Royal.

Represents the Smithsonian and NZP in promoting its animal management, education and conservation programs and their value to society as well as to the effectiveness of a modern zoological park. Presentations must be made to Congressional constituents, national and international conservation organizations, other U.S. and international government agencies, U.S. and foreign zoos, and potential donors.

Fosters a productive and creative climate for the staff’s pursuit of animal management objectives, setting clear expectations for outcomes and showing the links of their activities to the goals and objectives of NZP/SCBI and the Smithsonian. Develops, modifies and implements standards, criteria, and procedures to assure a high quality of staff performance. Provides guidance and direction to subordinate line supervisors and employees and resolves conflicts arising from program operations.


Degree: biological sciences, agriculture, natural resource management, chemistry, or related disciplines appropriate to the position.
Combination of education and experience: Courses equivalent to a major, as shown in A above, plus appropriate experience or additional education.

In addition, applicants must have one year of specialized experience at or equivalent to the GS-15 level. Specialized experience is defined as the demonstrated leadership skills in managing staff to ensure the safety of animal care staff and the well-being of a diverse collection including species with distinct and special needs, such as elephants, primates, giant pandas, marine mammals, reptiles, birds, dangerous carnivores, and hoofstock.  

The applications that meet the basic qualifications will be evaluated further against the following criteria:

1. Demonstrated experience in leading and managing a multi-disciplinary animal care department at an accredited zoological organization to include planning and allocation of staffing and financial resources and experience with knowledge of the regulatory requirements and best practices for the care of captive exotic animals.

2. Demonstrated experience serving as a leader for AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Accreditation inspections.

3. Demonstrated experience developing and leading institutional and/or regional collection plans and processes.

4. Demonstrated experience integrating the skills and contributions of a Zoo’s (or similar setting) animal management staff with public exhibit and education programs; ensuring that the public experience is optimized by being able to view animals consistently on exhibit while not negatively impacting animal welfare and appropriate messaging is used in demonstrations and other public interactions. 

5. Demonstrated experience building cooperative relationships and negotiating solutions that address varied complex and occasionally opposing interests. This includes explaining positions/solutions, both orally and in writing, and gaining acceptance by colleagues and customers at all levels.

6. Demonstrated skill in leading and managing a multi-disciplined and culturally diverse workforce.  This should include fostering teamwork and high morale; attracting, retaining and motivating employees; and implementing EEO/Affirmative Action policies and programs.

Conditions of Employment

  • Pass Pre-employment Background Investigation
  • May need to complete a Probationary Period
  • Maintain a Bank Account for Direct Deposit/Electronic Transfer
  • Males born after 12/31/59 must be registered with Selective Services

This job is only open to United States citizens, nationals or those who owe allegiance to the United States

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world.

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