Ambassador Animal Training Coordinator

General Statement of Duties

The Ambassador Animal Training Coordinator is a team lead position that requires an outgoing, enthusiastic and experienced individual to work in a team atmosphere caring for and training the Education Department’s collection of ambassador animals. In addition to animal training and husbandry duties, the Ambassador Animal Training Coordinator will participate in the development and delivery of Education programs. Please note that this position requires both animal care and presentation skills. The ambassador animal collection includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. This position reports directly to the Education Services Manager.

Essential functions and responsibilities:

Team Lead related duties

  • With oversight from Education Services Manager and with input from the Senior Director of Animal Programs, the Ambassador Animal Training Coordinator will help develop, implement, review and modify animal husbandry protocols that ensure proper high level animal care for wildlife housed in the ambassador animal collection.
  • With oversight from the Education Services Manager and with input from the Senior Director of Animal Programs, the Ambassador Animal Training Coordinator, will guide the development and implementation of plans to get new ambassador animals ready for programs, oversee ambassador animal training (new and maintenance behaviors), and develop strategies for making sure ambassador animals already in the collection are maintained ready for and will participate in presentations.
  • This position will instruct new and existing Education Specialists in the proper methods of animal care, handling, and training of ambassador animals.
  • This position schedules ambassador animals for Education programs in accordance with the internal animal handling protocols and Education program goals and objectives.
  • Collaborates with Education Specialists to design and implement animal enrichment and other activities for ambassador animals to encourage natural behaviors, to condition animals to being handled, and to reduce animal stress during presentations.
  • Designs and implements training for staff and volunteers to handle program animals for interpretive education programs and events.
  • Assist in collection planning for the ambassador animal collection.
  • Assist in the training, supervision, evaluation of volunteers, interns, and students, as needed for animal handling.

Animal Care related duties

  • Perform animal husbandry duties (feeding, cleaning, medicating), socialization, enrichment, and training of a diverse collection of mammals, birds, invertebrates, and reptiles daily.
  • Observe the animal collection for any signs of illness, lethargy, injury, or dietary problems and report any problems to the Education Services Manager, Veterinarian, or Senior Director of Animal Programs.  Assist veterinary staff with animal handling, capture, restraint, transport, and medication administration.
  • Follow all Zoo protocols and procedures to ensure that all ambassador animals are maintained in a safe and secure environment when housed in their enclosures, as well as when cleaning, feeding, training, travel to/from programs, and when in use on programs.
  • Identify maintenance issues and correct or repair each as required, reporting non-correctable maintenance issues, including potential safety hazards, to the work order system and Education Services Manager;.
  • Record keeping: maintain records of health, behavior, enrichment, operant conditioning and visitor engagement issues in designated programs in assigned areas; additional record-keeping and scheduling for animal husbandry, training, enrichment, program usage, and various Zoo operations as needed.

Education related

  • Deliver a dynamic guest experience on a daily basis.
  • As part of the Education Department team, this position will plan, prepare, and deliver interpretive Education programs both on and off-site to youth, adults and families, including camps, early childhood programs, overnights, on-grounds programming and outreach. These programs should connect and inspire people through fun, exciting, and safe animal encounters and/or STEM-based activities while utilizing appropriate teaching techniques to engage and educate participants, based on age, interest, and learning abilities.
  • Develop lesson plans for programs for all grade levels and align lessons with cross-curriculum components in accordance with both South Dakota and national standards.
  • Work in coordination with the Education Services Manager and Education Specialists with ideas, comments, evaluations tools and suggestions for future program development.
  • Establish and maintain effective and cooperative relationships with teachers and informal educators, students, volunteers, and visitors in all types of programming and special events. 
  • Schedule Education department programming.
  • Prepare program attendance reports, invoices, master calendar listings and routine correspondence with regard to the Zoo and Museum in a timely fashion.

Additional Duties

  • Work with the Education Services Manager on maintaining the collection and interpretive materials for the Delbridge Museum of Natural History.
  • Assist with cleaning, inspecting, and cataloging of museum artifacts as needed.
  • Demonstrate excellent communication and problem solving processes, while applying good judgment, to deliver animal care and guest experiences that meet the highest standards. 
  • Encourage and facilitate a strong team, work ethic and positive attitude in the work environment at all times.
  • Establish and maintain effective working relationships with co-workers (includes staff, interns, students and volunteers) and public in a professional and courteous manner; demonstrate teamwork and coordination on a daily basis when dealing with other departments including facilities, volunteers, and animal care.
  • Must be able to follow written and oral instructions.
  • Make decisions consistent with the Great Plains Zoo’s policies and procedures when required.
  • Perform daily duties in all sections of assigned department as required.
  • Work weekends, evening, overnights, and holidays as required.
  • Perform other duties as assigned.

Health and Safety

  • Maintain a current tetanus vaccination (5 years) and must be willing to be TB tested annually.
  • Must pass a background check prior to employment.
  • Must be able to lift and carry up 50-70 lbs. repetitively.
  • Must be certified, or able to become certified in CPR/AED within 1 year of employment.

Education, Experience and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences or Educational areas (biology, zoology, psychology, Education, etc.) or a related field.
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience with animal husbandry.
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience using operant and classical conditioning and animal handling techniques.
  • A minimum of one year training experience working free contact with multiple species is preferred (e.g., animal shows, public presentations, free-flight training, wildlife demonstrations, etc.).
  • Demonstrated understanding and ability to apply scientifically based animal training techniques including strong demonstrable skills using positive reinforcement strategies to train and maintain husbandry and show/presentation behaviors.
  • Demonstrated leadership experience is preferred.
  • Strong public presentation skills while working with live animals is required. Candidate must be comfortable with guest interactions and in delivering public presentations in a variety of settings.
  • Must be able to work a flexible work schedule including being able to work holidays and weekends, both regular and irregular hours as required.
  • Must maintain a valid driver’s license.

Résumés, cover letters, and completed employment applications may be sent to:

Lisa Smith  |  Senior Director of Animal Programs
Great Plains Zoo
805 S Kiwanis Ave
Sioux Falls, SD  57104

lsmith@gpzoo.org