Director, Animal Care, Ocean Wise
Animal Operations

Posted: March 12, 2019   |   Full-Time   |   Vancouver, BC

Job Details


Role Overview

Under the direction of the Managing Director, Vancouver Aquarium and VP Operations, the Director of Animal Care oversees the implementation of animal operations strategies that support our mission and achieve the highest possible standards of animal welfare, health and safety, and public engagement. They serve as the Aquarium’s primary expert on day-to-day animal management operations, issues, and opportunities.

The Director of Animal Operations works collaboratively across the organization, actively participating in the planning of animal exhibits from both an animal needs/care, and visitor experience perspective, ensuring a world class experience. This operations and people leadership role is a key component in the overall delivery of Vancouver Aquarium operations

Key Accountabilities

In collaboration with the Managing Director, Vancouver Aquarium & VP Operations, this individual is involved in, or leads, the planning and execution of agreed upon strategies related to superior care of our animal collections by:
  • Ensuring that all aspects of the Aquarium’s animal operations meet and exceed relevant professional standards and guidelines, while remaining in compliance with all laws and regulations;
  • Implementing comprehensive institutional animal collection plans that are consistent with the mission of Ocean Wise in collaboration with VP, Curators, and Animal Care and Welfare Committee;
  • Ensuring that appropriate animal management and husbandry practices are being employed daily;
  • Evaluating animal departments regularly;
  • Developing and implementing plans for ongoing improvements in husbandry and display including key employee skills; an employee training plan; a collection plan; exhibit plan, and animal management strategies;
  • Establishing a strong collaborative relationship with the veterinary and life-support teams and facilitating the continuous advancement of a preventative animal health care program consistent with the size and complexities of the animal collection;
  • Driving evidence-based, continuous improvements in the care and presentation of the animal collection, including development of reports, articles, papers and presentation and encouraging presentation at conferences, etc.;
  • Overseeing the development, implementation, and utilization of a rigorous animal records system;
  • In conjunction with the Dive Safety and Boating Officer, overseeing the continued improvement of the dive program including responsibility for ensuring that the program meets all regulatory requirements, monitoring and evaluation of the dive training program for safe diving operations;

In collaboration with the Managing Director, Vancouver Aquarium & VP Operations, this individual is involved in, or leads, the planning and execution of agreed upon strategies related to superior care of our animal collections by:

  • Participating as an active member of the exhibits process to ensure world class visitor experience delivery;
  • Ensuring that animal exhibit standards throughout the aquarium are maintained to best practices;
  • Establishing an efficient cross-departmental process of water quality and life support system management to ensure excellent animal health;
  • Ensuring that animal operations teams deliver the guest experience according to expectations;
Supports successful implementation of our Environmental Management System as lead for Species Conservation by:
  • Participating as an active member of the EMS Committee, contributing to and improving the program;
  • Developing and implementing annual objectives and targets in conjunction with Executive Team and the Sustainability Manager;
  • Monitoring and measuring the success of objectives and programs;
  • Communicating program details as required to Sustainability Manager and EMS team members;
  • Tracking all details, maintaining documentation and updating program progress through SharePoint, and ensuring program participants also maintain up-to-date documentation of program details;
  • Ensuring policies and procedures are developed to mitigate and reduce environmental impacts that are related to relevant EMPs, and that policies and procedures are reviewed and updated when appropriate;
  • Ensuring legal requirements pertaining to EMPs are reviewed and communicated to appropriate staff members;
  • Helping to facilitate the EMS program by communicating EMS information to staff;
  • Participating in, and contributing to, the success of the bi-annual EMS audits;
Reinforces organizational strategy and provides direction on animal operations, plans, and objectives for direct reports and extended team members by:
  • Describing, clarifying and providing direction on key organizational strategies to Direct Reports as they formulate goals and tactical strategies;
  • Encouraging Direct Reports to continually assess operational and/or efficiency opportunities, and provide recommendations for improvement aligned with organization and animal operations strategies;
  • Continuously support the organizational health and safety program by participating in the Health & Safety committee, proactively identifying and mitigating risks in the workplace, ensuring all workers are competent to safely perform job duties with education, training, and supervision, and ensuring safe work practices meet or exceed regulatory requirements;
  • Proactively identifying internal or external conditions that may impact organization results and suggesting to senior management any recommended changes in organizational priority, tactics, policies, etc., ensuring any agreed upon changes in strategy are implemented and communicated to all team members in a timely manner to achieve organization objectives;
  • Collaborating with other Directors, team leads and senior management colleagues to ensure collaboration across the organization by identifying and recommending possible changes in policies and/or operating procedures while assessing risk, profitability, and ROI associated with changes;
  • Leveraging staffing resources to improve the fiscal standing of the services offered;
  • Obtaining continuous feedback from Department team members on barriers to achieving mission-based activities, productivity, operational efficiency, and/or service levels;
  • Championing organizational changes that encourage mission-based activities and efficient operations, and meet service standards to internal and external customers;
  • Ensuring Human Resources processes and policies are followed (e.g. time sheets, PO’s, etc.) by team leaders;
  • Maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of employee and customer information under the rules and regulations as set out in Ocean Wise Privacy Policy; 
Provides management, coaching and mentoring to Direct Reports and contributes to and fosters the development of the team by:
  • Creating an environment conducive to individual development, productivity, and achievement while ensuring open lines of communication.
  • Ensuring that employees are well organized, sufficiently trained/cross-trained to perform their responsibilities, developed to their potential and deployed in a manner that permits a cost-effective operation.
  • Planning and facilitating individual touch bases, group touch bases, and skill-building sessions where appropriate.
  • Providing direction, guidance and support to team members and motivating staff to achieve a high level of performance and productivity.
  • Establishing performance objectives/goals, reviewing progress throughout the year, and completing formal performance reviews for direct reports as required.
  • Recognizing and rewarding success and managing poor performance.
  • Developing and obtaining agreement on development plans for all direct reports, recommending training courses and seminars where appropriate.
  • Recruiting, hiring and promoting team members in accordance with standard Ocean Wise policies.
  • Monitoring and controlling expenditures to ensure that Ocean Wise standards are met while continuing to maintain monthly budget.
  • Tracking budget and maintaining financial records throughout the year.
Consciously improves the overall organization and its processes by:
  • Continually improving our impact on the environment and greening of operations through support of EMS protocols.
  • Maintaining and supporting organizational safety standards.
  • Abiding by all organizational policies and procedures.
  • Performing other duties of a similar nature or level.


Education and Experience
  • A minimum of 10 years’ experience in aquarium or zoo operations with a minimum of five years’ experience in a leadership capacity;
  • Graduate degree in biology, zoology or related field preferred;
  • Technical expertise and specialized skills in the husbandry and management of live animal collections;
  • Awareness of or specific technical expertise and specialized skills in managing mechanical and aquatic life support systems preferred;
  • Experience managing the delivery of visitor experience programs an asset;

Skills and Abilities

  • Ability to establish and enforce working practices which safeguard the health and wellbeing of animals and humans;
  • Solid technical understanding of operational systems and a practical ability to effectively lead and manage teams and projects;
  • A clear understanding about what needs to be accomplished and is able to set realistic goals for teams to be successful;
  • Excellent understanding of life support systems, animal care, guest experience, and aquarium exhibits;
  • Skilled written and spoken communication to all levels within the organization;
  • Ability to make critical decisions in a timely and appropriate manner using the best factual information in accordance with the institution’s organizational structures;
  • Ability to establish and promote team efforts to tackle projects including effective delegation;
  • Skilled in creating performance-based criteria for conducting operational activities;
  • Understanding of how to best communicate information and expectations for individual and group performance;
  • Strong technical knowledge of life support water systems preferred, with the ability to provide guidance in the development of exhibit and animal programs;
  • Must be able to lead a variety of staff, from inexperienced juniors to veterans within a complex organization;
  • Excellent organizational and time management skills and the ability to manage and prioritize a significant workload, while consistently producing professional work within tight timelines;
  • Ability to think strategically at an organizational level and to collaborate with a wide range of internal and external experts in science, finance, education, etc.;
  • Desire and ability to develop and continuously motivate a highly effective and positive team;


  • Primarily in office environment with usual ergonomic risks, including some shared work space, as necessary;
  • Will involve some longer days/hours to ensure goals are met;
  • Required to carry a radio and be accessible for calls;
  • Walking through galleries and behind the scenes spaces;
  • Potential exposure to animal related risks and chemicals;
  • Job requires high degree of alertness to changing conditions when working with animals;
  • Exposure to slippery conditions and uneven surfaces;
  • Incumbent must be able to safely lift up to 50lbs;


  • Annual salary of $110,000.00 – $140,000.00
  • Employee Benefits Package (Extended Health and Dental)
  • RRSP Matching program

This is a full-time, regular position based out of the Ocean Wise office at 845 Avison Way, Vancouver, BC.

If you have any questions regarding the role, please contact

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.